Monday, March 23, 2015

Returned Missionary

So, for those that are thinking, "She's not a missionary anymore, why is she writing more??" It was suggested to me to write a final email/blog post, to update on the last week of being home and what the experience has been like. Here goes.

Being referred to as a "Returned Missionary" has to be on the list of weird things of being home from a mission, but I wouldn't say it's the weirdest. It's so great to be with family, see old friends, re connect with those I taught in my old areas and to generally try to establish a routine (which so far has been unsuccessful due to the random events and family activities that have been going on), but there are plenty of adjustments to make.

For a brief recap of the week...

I couldn't sleep the whole plane ride home. Elder VanWagoner and I somehow sat next to each other on every single plane ride for over 20 hours and both listened to the other talk the other's ear off about the mission. I had a nice discussion with a cool French man at the Seattle airport who spoke 5 languages and was Greek Orthodox (which made me want to scream "I know your religion because of My Big Fat Greek Wedding!" but I didn't). The reality of coming home didn't really set in the first few plane rides, but the culture shock sure did. American's are just so rich, big, and mean. Or, those were my impressions after living 18 months in a country of small, malnourished, golden hearted people. I stepped of the plane in Utah and suddenly felt like I had just left everything worth having in the Philippines and almost turned around and tried to get back on the plane. Some lady must have noticed my dazed look and shell-shocked body language, and she asked me where I was trying to go. She directed Elder Van and I to the escalators and I had a heart-stopping moment as I saw my family on the ground floor of the airport. I proceeded to argue with Elder Van, trying to make him go down the stairs before me, because I certainly was not going to be first. I don't know what hit me- I just knew that the moment I saw my family, the finish line would be all too close, and I wasn't ready for it to be done. But of course, instinct eventually overcame. I practically ran down the stairs and threw myself at my mom and cried, because that's just what you do, right? We took the obligatory pictures and generally basked in the joy of being reunited. There's nothing quite like 18 months apart to make you appreciate your family. Unless you're an Elder serving for 2 years, I guess. 

Walking into my house all I could keep saying was, "We're so rich. America is so stinking rich." I've since come to accept that the blessings we so often take for granted here in this country does not mean we are better than others- just that we have the opportunity to bless other's lives, because we have the means to do so. (But I still think everyone is rich. And I love that I can drink out of any water tap I want to.)

Being released and taking off the name tag was probably the hardest thing I've had to do up to this point of being home (9 days now.) Opening my Book of Mormon is what gives me comfort, because even though I don't wear the tag anymore, I feel the same familiar peace of the Holy Ghost when I read it.

The following night (since I apparently wasn't in the furthest possible stage of shock) Megan surprised me with the special dinner and the Europe tickets which could not have been a bigger shock. (With coming home combined with the news of Europe, I'm surprised I didn't lose a couple of my 5 senses. The excitement is a little too much to handle.) 

Some of the hard things about being home are all the usuals: adjusting to another schedule, being ice cold ALL of the time, not having a companion, speaking correct English, and all the usual things you hear RM's struggle with. My family is still trying to get used to the weird quirks and habits I picked up on the mission, and sometimes communication is a struggle and ends up in lots of giggles. Of course there are a lot of perks to being home and seeing loved ones. But I guess the new and most daunting challenge I currently face is to take all the things I learned in such a... different environment that the mission is, and apply them in my new ecosystem (for lack of a better term). 

Even just the first day I was home, it was like I could feel the tentacles of my old self and my old world tangling around me and inviting me in, to return to what I used to be and used to do. This morning, I was listening to a talk I felt prompted to put on back from conference of 2009. It's by Elder Dale G Renlund, entitled, "Preserving the Heart's Mighty Change". He explains in this talk the process of literal heart transplants: what happens in the body, what patients who receive a new heart are required to do and how it can be protected. He says:

 "In each heart transplant recipient, the patient’s own body recognizes the new, lifesaving heart as “foreign” and begins to attack it. Left unchecked, the body’s natural response will reject the new heart, and the recipient will die. Medicines can suppress this natural response, but the medications must be taken daily and with exactness. Furthermore, the condition of the new heart must be monitored. Occasional heart biopsies are performed wherein small pieces of heart tissue are removed and then examined under a microscope. When signs of rejection are found, medications are adjusted. If the rejection process is detected early enough, death can be averted.
Surprisingly, some patients become casual with their transplanted hearts. They skip their medicines here and there and obtain the needed follow-up less frequently than they should. They think that because they feel good, all is well. Too often this shortsighted attitude puts the patients at risk and shortens their lives."
Elder Renlund continues on to liken this to our spiritual mighty change of heart. "Equal, if not greater, care must be taken with a spiritually changed heart than with a physically transplanted heart if we are to endure to the end." 
It's our "natural man" response to give in to carnal desires, to reject the "new heart" we've found. We must monitor the condition of the new heart constantly, through what Elder Renlund referred to as spiritual heart biopsies. Alma 5 provides a great example in verses 14, 19, and 26 of a spiritual biopsy.  
"Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? 
 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"
By spiritually examining our hearts, we can examine any "signs of rejection" by our natural man, and adjust our spiritual doses of medicine accordingly. And as he pointed out, just because we feel good (I'm not talking about the Holy Ghost's brand of "feeling good") does not mean we are on the right path to make it to the Celestial kingdom. Remember what Lehi saw in his dream when he watched those multitudes milling around the rod of iron: 
"And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building." 
We cannot be content with the attitude that truth is relative. We cannot just do whatever makes us "feel good", because we are a fallen people. We are susceptible to the natural man, who craves carnal things. It we are following simply what feels right to each one of us, we will end up with millions of different opinions labeled as "truth" on varying subjects like how to find happiness, or what our purpose is in this life-- with the truth still escaping us. If we simply follow our natural man feelings on matters such as these, we will be led into roundabouts, cul de sacs, and dead ends that are all created by Satan. We may end up in the great and spacious building, a pathetic substitute for the tree of life. If we want to know truth, we have to tune in, frequently, to the Spirit. The Spirit works through our changed hearts to help us to recognize the difference between the fabricated "good feelings" of the world, and the true and genuine good feelings sent by the Lord. Our challenge is ensuring the mighty change is an ongoing event. Elder Renlund closed by sharing, 
"Please consider the state of your changed heart. Do you detect any rejection setting in as a result of the tendency of the natural man to become casual? If so, find a place where you too can kneel. Remember, more than mortal years on this earth are at stake. Do not risk forfeiting the fruits of the ultimate operation: eternal salvation and exaltation."
Thanks to the numberless people who have been a support these last 18 months, and to those of you I saw at my homecoming. It's a pleasure to rub shoulders with so many whom I look up to and admire. I hope this mission blog has helped to reach out to others and give a little picture of what mission life has been like for me in the Philippines, Bacolod mission. God lives, and I am thankful for the promise He has fulfilled to me, found in Ezekiel 36:26:
 new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Sister Luke

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Last Melon

Written 3/8/15

 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace... I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.”

I hate goodbyes. I've always hated goodbyes. I probably will always hate goodbyes. But I am lucky to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. This week I've scaled every range of emotion from love, happiness,  peace, excitement, all the way to loneliness, sadness and just feeling blank. This week has been so good because it was just  normal missionary week. We got punted a lot, walked a LOT of kilometers in the hot sun and met a lot of crazy people, and in the end, I still love my life. I love being a missionary. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This week Je. A. Sr. was baptized. He was my very first appointment in Sagay, and my last baptism in the field. A lot of unexplainable things happened to somehow get Je. here after how many years. All I can do is give praise to an omniscient God who has absolutely perfect timing.

Today, W. and B. Boy came with me to Bacolod to process their marrige papers. They will be getting married and baptized on May 2nd, 2015.

This week our Zone Conference on Thursday was everything you'd want a last Zone Conference to be. Sister Rey and I had an opportunity to give a training, and we got to listen to our ZL's and Assistants give great trainings s well. I was the chorister and as we sang the line in More Holiness Give Me, "More longing for home..." it suddenly had a different meaning than it did all those months ago when I sang those exact words in the MTC choir. My idea of home has changed drastically. In Charlotte's words, "This is my home now." :) There were, however, 2 things that were the best ever at zone conference that I want to share with you.

One: L. and M., the husbands of 2 of my recent converts from Inayauan wrote me. They have both decided to be baptized and shared that they have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost more and more, and they thanked Sister Santos and I for returning to their families even when they didn't want to listen. Does God just have perfect surprises in store or what?

Two: Before I left on my mission, I was unsure of my decision to serve or not. As I pondered, I reread Elder Holland's talk from General Conference of 2012, "The First and Great Commandment" and if any of you have read it, you'll know immediately why it was easy to decide. It was the talk that started all of this for me... It was also the talk that has inspired me every time I've felt discouraged. And it was the talk that President Ferrin's training was based on. I want to share a bit with you, (actually it's a lot) but it's better to get the full effect if you just watch him give the talk, with the volume turned up good and loud. Don't just skip over this part. Read it. Read it all.

“To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”

Then, turning to all the Apostles, He might well have said something like: “Were you as foolhardy as the scribes and Pharisees? As Herod and Pilate? Did you, like they, think that this work could be killed simply by killing me? Did you, like they, think the cross and the nails and the tomb were the end of it all and each could blissfully go back to being whatever you were before? Children, did not my life and my love touch your hearts more deeply than this?”

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?”

I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before.”

About that last part. I would classify my mission as my own personal encounter with the living Son of God. And because of it, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. All those things Elder Holland mentioned above in his last paragraph are not just things missionaries do. I intend to not only serve Christ as His missionary, but as His disciple.  I testify from the bottom of my heart that this is the restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. I love the Book of Mormon, and it is the most powerful tool in the world to bring us closer to our Savior. I testify that God lives and that Jesus died and was resurrected. I know that Joseph Smith was God's elect and foreordained prophet. I can say now that I know whose name I wear on my name tag every day. I know him as my Friend, my Brother, my Master, my Counselor, my Savior, my Lord and my God. Elder Holland said in this same talk:

“I include in that call to fixed faithfulness every returned missionary who ever stood in a baptismal font and with arm to the square said, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.” That commission was to have changed your convert forever, but it was surely supposed to have changed you forever as well.

I've thought about that statement of his every time I've watched an investigator be baptized. And I am changed because of it. But I guess the "changed forever" part is the new test I will be facing for the rest of my life. I want to offer my thanks to you for your support and love these past 18 months. This was hands down the best decision I could have ever made and has brought me more happiness than I've ever felt. I am in eternal debt to my Father in Heaven, because He allowed me to have this life changing experience with life changing people. I miss you all, but not that much. See you in a bit.

Paalam kag halong. Palangga ko kamo.

Sister Luke

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"The Change in the Branches"

Written 3/1/15

Hello Fellow Peasants,

First, sorry I didn't reply to almost all of you. Time is short and we'll see each other soon anyway. :)

You're all sending me reeeeally trunky emails. It's like you think I'm going home soon or something. You're all definitely more trunky than I am. Just breathe, kids. You can do this.

Okay, I haven't had to deal with weird "Mormon" misconceptions here on the mission too much, but this week we had a driver of our tricycle that asked us how much gold we had. Confused, we asked what he meant. He told us the mormons by his house are  searching for the lost spanish treasure here in the Pines and have found a lot of gold now. Ahaha. "Now I ain't sayin' he's a gold digger..."

Also, we ran out of restoration pamphlets this week to give to people, so we've been street contacting with word of wisdom and law of chastity pamphlets. That makes life 10x more fun.

3rd funny thing this week: They have here in the Pines a form of public transportation called C-cads. It's a bike with a little sidecar attached. I experienced the ride of shame this week when we were in a c-cad going home, up a small hill. The man riding the bike was going about 2 feet an hour, and he finally gave up trying to pedal and had to basically just push us up the hill. The fat american and her tiny 5 pound companion. Ahaha.

This week the amazing things were:

J.'s baptism. He was there like 3 hours early, just to make sure he was on time, and he bore his testimony after his baptism AND in sacrament meeting the next day. He was the first one who jumped up to the pulpit. I was so proud of him, and I know how much more proud Heavenly Father must have felt. I've never met someone so pure in heart. Happiness on the mission is sometimes too big for my body.

The second was Je. passing his baptismal interview. We were so excited for him. He's had 2 scheduled baptisms in the past, but this time he told us he's sure. He shared with us that he wants to be completely forgiven and to be able the have the Spirit always with him. He is such a changed man and I love being able to have seen the process.

Speaking of changes... I was reading in Jacob 5 this week, and found some great little bits. I feel like Jacob 5, verse 58- 59 describes well the way I feel the Atonement has worked in me on my mission.

"And we will nourish again the trees of the vineyard, and we will trim up the branches thereof; and we will pluck from the trees those branches which are ripened, that must perish, and cast them into the fire.
 And this I do that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil."

Much in the same way the workers in the Lord's vineyard worked to help the olive tree bring forth good fruit by nourishing, pruning, and grafting the branches, the Lord also works with us.

We see in verse 65 and 66 that the trees aren't stripped of their imperfections all at once, but instead are worked upon gradually; cutting, pruning and being nourished until the most wild branches "began to be cast away" and in 75, "the vineyard is no more corrupted" and the "bad is cast away". I know I'm not even close to having all my imperfections purged and done away with, but the Lord has oftimes helped me on the mission to face my "wild branches": my favorite sins, streaks of disobedience or laziness etc, and he's helped me to not only cut away at the worst of it all, only to have it grow back again... But he's helped me to work from the roots, from the inside-out, to change my nature instead of just my habits.

A quote I love by President Benson,

 "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. … Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”

The Atonement is something I marvel at and experience every day of my mission. It has changed me. And I know it will change you. It works to change us from the outside in, but we must first look for our own "wild branches" and start there. Choose your favorite sin, the one we can never seem to give up... That one disobedient habit that keeps you from constant companionship with the Holy Ghost, and work on it. Then you will see, as the laborers in the vineyard saw, "the roots [took] strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches.. the good [has] overcome the evil".

Have a blessed week.

Sister Luke
 1. My companion is from Korea. 

2. My exhausted trainee. Love her. :)

3. FHE last week. Dont ask.

4. Tractor tipping.

5. My toko-prince.

Monday, February 23, 2015

In the Philippines You Can Be Fat AND Gwapa

Written 2/22/15

The subject line was the brilliant quote I heard from Sister Vaitohi this week on exchanges, and that explains why the Philippines is better than America. Boom. Sidenote: Sister Vai and I were both trained by Sister Fitzgerald. That was a great exchange :)

My beef with you all this week: I'M NOT IN THE FAMILY CHRISTMAS CARD. Still choosing not to be offended about this but I wouldn't mind an explanation..... *taps foot*

The BEST news ever I forgot to share last week. I found out that my miracle couple (M. and A.) from Inayauan that wanted to be baptized so bad got baptized on Christmas last year. And Sister A. And Sister P. And Brother W. Missionary work is so good.

Awkward moment this week: Mistaking an investigators mom for her husband. No recovery there.

On to the miracles this week, because there were plenty.

1. J. Again. Let me just list the ways: His beautiful, marked up book of Mormon (He's in 2 nephi now), passing his baptismal interview, quoting a speaker from church in one of our lessons, coming to church even when his fellowshipper stopped coming to church, working with us after we taught him about missionary work, telling me a story and saying, "Before I was a mormon..." I can't say enough about this kid.

2. Brother Je. The long time investigator who finally took care of some personal issues and is like a different person. I've never seen someone's countenance change so dramatically. We've been teaching him long before I got into the area, and after hours and hours of study, preparation, prayers, and patience, he's finally decided to accept the gospel fully. We had some amazing experiences with the Spirit leading us at exactly the right time to the right place, and all I can say is wow at the change I've seen in this man.

3. W. and B. Boy planning their wedding for the end of March. I love these people SO much. And they are finally gettin' hitched.

We had a cool experience this week on Saturday. Sister and I went to pick up a member (Sister Jo.) that was going to work with us and ended up bringing another sister (Mi.) we weren't planning on. Seizing the opportunity, we decided to go on splits in order to hit all the appointments for that night. Immediately a name of one of our recent converts we hand't even planned for the night before popped into my head and I told Sister Generalo to go there with Sis Jo. first. Then Mi. and I headed off to our appointments. An hour and a half later found us waiting at the place we had agreed to meet. After about 10 minutes, we went to go find Sister Generalo and the member that accompanied her. I felt prompted to stop by the member's house and ask if they had seen my companion and the member. After stopping by, we were told that Sister Generalo and Sister Jo. were at that recent convert's house; she had collapsed from a fever in their lesson and they called the Elders to give a blessing. It was such a reminder of the power of the holy ghost in the work, and a tender mercy that we were able to help the family so quickly.

I've learned on my mission what the Lord is really asking from me. The Lord isn't asking for just our time or our money or even just 18 months from Sister Missionaries. What he's asking for is our hearts. The commandments are but a means to that end.

Love you all so much. I love the work and the Filipinos and everything about my life right now. I've never been so exhausted and I've never been so happy.

Sister Luke
1. A late 17 months picture.

2. En.'s baptism last week

3. We ran into our friend Er. again!

4. The Bu.’s; Love this family. Sis Jo. is the one standing behind me.

5. No words :)

6. The parents of W. and B. Boy (recent converts) and W.'s little girl. I LOVE these two.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Goat Lady

Written 2/15/15

I never know where to start these things.

This week was the best week ever because I got to go to the temple for the first time in over a year. More on this later. But going to Manila was one of the many amazing things that happened to me this week.

Here's some of the other things this week you can't help but smile over:
1. I ate completely raw fish. I think I can be considered a true woman now.

2. Brother En.’s endless questions about America. "Sister Luke, do they have insects in America too?" "Sister Luke, are the roads in America cement, too?" "Sister Luke, do you have cats in America?" "Sister Luke, you even have vegetables in America??"

3. Meeting the Bangladesh man at the immigration office in Manila, named Azam. Everything you would ever want a stereotypical Muslim man to be. He told me and Sister Char "I will never forget your cute faces," and then took a picture with us.

4. J., an investigator from almost a year ago, finally accepted a baptismal date this week for March 7.

5. Enj. was baptized and gave a beautiful testimony. So simple and perfect.

6. Ja. is attending seminary, asking us endless questions, reading every day, and attended the Valentines youth activity on Saturday. He is just so good.

7. The goat lady!! Remember the picture I sent of me holding the goat?? Long story short, she (Siser Em.) turned into an investigator through a member referral. Sister Em. had told a member after she met us that she wanted to go to church because of her interaction with us. We met her on Thursday and gave her a baptismal date right there, and she showed up to church on Sunday, with her cousin, Sister Gasper, a super active member in the ward. You cannot tell me that God's plan isn't just so perfect. Also, she didn't even get mad when we broke her bamboo bench outside her house. (I wish I could say that's the only bamboo piece of furniture I've broken in my time here in the mission.)

And... Manila. I think I just stepped in to the temple and cried the whole 2 hours. I have missed being in the house of the Lord. Sister Char explained it so well... As a missionary, you always feel  like a fish out of water. Being in the temple... Its like you finally get a taste of being back in the water. I was surprised that it was such a completely different experience than I'd ever had in the temple, but I realized that it was because I was a completely different person. I'll cherish those memories and things I learned in the Manila temple for the rest of my life.

In Hebrews 12:1 and 2 it says "...Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..."

Looking at my last 3 weeks here in the field, I have to face the fact that I will not always be here to strengthen, teach, and be with my recent converts, less active, and investigators. But I know that I am neither the author, nor the finisher of their faith. My mission is not the finisher of my faith. And since Christ is eternal, so is my faith in him eternal. Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of my faith and their faith. I will not fear to leave my converts in the hands of the Lord. He is so powerful that even a belief in him causes us to be endowed with power. Your faith matters.

I love you all so very very much. Padayon lang ta. Kita ay kita!

Love, Sister Luke

PS Happy Valentines Day. Ahaha. I forgot.

1 & 2 The Temple
3. The Filipino version of a baconator.

4. Filipino sized frosty. (This is a regular...)

5. My Valentine

6. His name is Nephi!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Eat The Rice

Written 2/8/15

My dear ones,

They tell me that the last transfer sees the most miracles. True. It also sees the most temptations and a lot of disappointment. But the good always overcomes the evil, as I've seen again this week.

I lived the "itsy bitsy spider" song this week. I was in the shower and opened my eyes to the wall- that minutes before was completely blank- and saw a huge, very NOT itsy bitsy spider staring back at me. To my credit, I didn't scream because I was pretty much in silent terror, (I don't think that will ever change) but luckily someone came to my rescue and drowned him.... never to "climb up the water spout" again.

MLC  was just one of the many revelatory experiences I had this week. I came with a list of questions and left with plenty of material to study about the answers. I love that the gospel is so personal like that. And planning our training for the Zone afterwards was a huge, wonderful learning experience. I testify that the teacher really does learn more than the learner. This whole week I've been humbled to learn so much from Sister Generalo. She amazes me... Skills that I took forever to learn and apply are the skills she arrived here with. The Lord is hastening his work, meaning all the missionaries that arrive are just getting better and better. Sometimes I feel like I'm the one being trained. We went on member splits yesterday evening and I love that she is so fearless.

Our sad news this week: our really golden investigator, G., the seventh day adventist, dropped us last Wednesday. Her family found out she was investigating the Church and the had a big argument. G.'s family are the ones supporting her schooling here while they live in Cebu, and so she felt that she couldn't continue. It was a really disappointing night, but I know that the time will come for her.

The expression, "When one door closes, another door opens" came to my mind this week, because despite investigators dropping us and monster spiders terrorizing the apartment, we saw so many miracles. Lets take a quick inventory:

1. W. and R. decided to get married. These have been investigators for over a year. W. is the daughter of our recent convert, and we've been doing everything we can think of to help them make this decision. After a lot of temptations, problems, and prayers, they finally decided to be married and baptized.

2. J. N. Imagine a 16 year old T. (T. from my first area.) He is a referral of a recent convert, and we met him 2 weeks ago when he came to church. We met with him, gave him a book of Mormon, and in our follow up visit he had already read the all the way from the beginning to chapter 5 in 1 Nephi, in just one day. (Sort of unheard of in the Pines with new investigators.) Then, when we taught word of wisdom, he told us that he'd given up coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes 3 weeks ago when his recent convert friend had taught him about the word of wisdom. He is the most humble and pure hearted kid I've ever met... I could go on and on about him.

3. E. is preparing for her baptism this week!

4. I get to go to the temple this Friday. I have to go to Manila to get some requirements for my visa, and we all get to visit the temple while we're there. The only analogy that comes to mind is a dehydrated man in the desert finding a drinking fountain. SO EXCITED.

I've learned a lot this week about Charity. When I got to talk with Sister Char this week the night before MLC, we got talking about my subject line today: "Eat the Rice". If you'll let me explain a bit...

This sentence probably speaks volumes to every sister missionary who has ever served in the Philippines. As American sister missionaries, we are (overly) conscious of the fact that we get fat when we eat rice. A lot of the sisters go to extreme lengths to avoid eating rice at all costs. Sometimes these costs are offended members, offended companions, lack of unity, lack of understanding or appreciation... All stemming from not eating a little rice. It seems silly, right? Big concerns arising from such a small issue. It's due to mismatched cultures and different habits. But as Sister Char and I talked, we realized so many of the problems these missionaries face in their areas and companionships could be solved if they laid down their pride and their vanity to just "Eat the rice".

But the principle isn't just applied to Sister missionaries in the Philippines eating rice. It applies to all of us... It relates back to charity, as explained in Moroni: "Charity seeketh not her own." We change habits, shift paradigms, and sometimes something as simple as what we eat to fit greater purposes. We humble ourselves and sacrifice our vain desires (not wanting to get fat) and we "eat the rice" for a greater purpose (achieving unity, showing love or appreciation). Because there, in the small things, people feel our love. We see that our sacrifice is small, in the scheme of things. We seek no longer just for our own good, but for the betterment of others. I've found out that this work truly must be about others.

I hope we all look for opportunities in our lives and relationships to just "eat the rice". To stop thinking about ourselves and be willing to change and give up our pride for others.. So they feel and see our love.

This work is the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm the happiest I've ever been. :) Our new mission President, President Ferrin, is called by the Lord. And the work goes on!

Sister Luke
1. Reunited with Sister Santos :) She'll kill me if she knew I sent this. She woke up like 2 minutes before this was taken :)

2. The most popular kid in school. Thanks to Megan! And the Wilkins. :)

3. Itsy bitsy...

4. Zone training

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Confessions of a Worry Wart.

Written 2/1/15

The mission helps you get to know yourself. Probably way more than you ever wanted to know about yourself. One thing I learned about myself this week: I definitely worry too much. I only preface this email with this statement so you can forgive the scattered and probably detail starved email this week, because between yesterday and today and this whole week... We're feeling a little frazzled :)

The good news this week: I finished the Book of Mormon in Ilonggo! Right before I went to pick up my new trainee. That felt so good.

We had a little angel sent to help us this week on our wild goose chase looking for a referral one day. We met a 15 year old boy named E. who only has one working leg, and uses a crutch to walk. He helped us find the place we were looking for and led us through the creepy cemetery and back to safety after we got stuck in a forest after dark. I love the natural goodness in this kid.

Ro. En. has been doing SO good with his word of wisdom this week. It's probably my favorite thing to see people transform their lives with the help of the Atonement, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is such a different person than the 18 year old I met a couple  months ago, and I know there are so many more changes ahead for him. Keep him in your prayers.

So. The trainee. Her name is Sister Generalo, from Bicol, Legaspi Philippines. Tagolog. And about 2 licks of English. So you can imagine the fun we have :) It's a good thing I've asked my past ompanions throughout my mission to teach me Tagolog so at least I can understand her. She's amazing... Even just the first day she was ready to try and lead lessons, share her insights, and try and speak even just a little Ilonggo. We've had a really crazy week, but it's been a lot of really good learning experiences too. Throws me back to about 16 months ago, when I was fresh in the field.

Another thing I've learned this week is that I am not expected to be a perfect trainer or missionary. God's love for me does not change because I make a mistake or because I locked the key in the house or dropped and broke our cell phone or wandered around for too long searching for a less active we never found. God's love for me does not lessen because he also loves my sister. God loves me whether I'm rich or poor. He loves me when I do not deserve it. He loves me "this much" and "this much" never changes. I learned this week that God's love is not affected by anything; instead, it affects everything.

I hope that you let God's love affect you this week. I hope you look to this new week as a fresh start, and that you share His love in some way. What a selfish thing to keep to ourselves, right? Something I love about the Filipino culture is that if something is good, delicious, or makes one happy, they immediately share it. Its what makes them such good missionaries.

I love you all. I love God, and I know this work is His. Go and get lost in it. You will find more happiness than you have ever experienced.

Sister Luke

1. Twinners. This is my favorite RM- Analyn :)

2. The newbie