Hello!! Its been another week here in the Philippines. I know I say that a lot, but it really has. I catch myself grinning to often. Mom, that was a great suggestion to make Mango Salsa. Lucky I have all the ingredients stocked in my fridge everyday, right? They don't have salsa here so my house mates were excited to try it. After I made it I explained to them that we could eat it tomorrow with chips or on top of fish. Well to my surprise, the next day my cute little natives had eaten almost all the salsa with Cheese potato chips. I should have been more specific when I said "chips".
The Filipino people teach me so much, i'm wondering how many lessons i'm going to learn from them. I want to share with you all about how Filipinos sincerely care for other people. One night we were invited to have dinner at a families home. They really do not have much, and all that was for dinner was a small roll, with a little relish spread. There was enough for everyone to have one, although I noticed Tatay didn't eat any. He wasn't eating one, so that we could have seconds. They offered it to me three times, by that time my companion nudged me so I took it. I told my companion afterwards that it breaks my heart to take food from them, and that I would rather starve, because they really needed the rolls I ate. My companion told me that because they are so giving, God will bless them. Also, that if I decline, then it is considered an insult. When you take its a way of saying your grateful. Well this little story is something that happens at least 5 times a day. People just give and give and give. There is this one sister, that whenever we come visit her, she takes off her sandals and gives them to me so I can wear them inside her house, so that my feet don't get dirty. People are extremely thoughtful. Its teaching me probably the most valuable lesson I have learned thus far in my life. For example, the other day I ate a lot of my companions chips and I offered to pay for them. She said that I should never offer to pay for something, and that it could be offensive. She continued and said, here in the Philippines its every ones food. I've been thinking a lot about this, and I think this has been the biggest culture shock to me. Because in America I have ingrained in my mind its polite to help pay for things, yet now I am realizing that its all about the after feeling that people are receiving. Its about after you give something its "I did something good" and not "look at what I lost." The Filipinos got this service thing down perfectly. If I didn't accept something given, its an insult because I am depriving them of serving, and receiving the wonderful feeling and blessings they receive afterwards. It has opened my eyes to be more aware of people. Especially because the Filipinos are such a sensitive and delicate people. In my companionship it is teaching me that people love to see actions and not just be told that you care. I care so much about her, and I love her so much, so Its helping me put those thoughts into actions. I am now learning how to look how little things to do constantly throughout the day. I think this is helping me with any relationship I am in, because I am learning to totally forget about myself, because that person means more than myself. Also to genuinely care, you never count who's doing what. Thats the old American mind set that I am changing. Its not about what I paid for or what I did, its about how can I show that I care more.
Well now I want to tell you some thoughts I've had about out dear investigator Gener. This past week its been an emotional one for me because of him. He was progressing so much, and he has such a great desire for truth. Although this past week, come to find out, that some temptations entered his home this past week, that I am rather shocked happened. Makes me realize that Satan knows us well. He knows our weaknesses and what would be the perfect thing to stop us from progressing. I'm realizing that its been am emotional one for Gener, my companion and I because we are in a spiritual war. It needs to be hard because we are fighting for the salvation of people. We were rather told with him about the pathways he can choose, and that God knows what will bring him true happiness. Gener is the type of person that we can be bold to, because his heart is so soft he understands truth and accepts it. Nephi talks a lot about hardness of hearts (ex. 1Ne 15: 2-3) and also in 2Ne 9:40. From Nephi's teachings I conclude that we shouldn't take the truth hard, the truth is how we progress. A lot of times we may feel guilt when truth is spoken. Its up to us to steer that guilt. Whether it hardens our heart, or we sincerely ask God to help us through it. A friend once told me that Guilt is the sense of a lock of duty. I think my friend was spot on. I think that the holy ghost can help you become aware of your duty. Your duty being what God would have you do and what is right for you. When we ignore the holy ghost, and choose the carnal man instead 'you remain in a fallen state, and the devil hath power over you' - Mosiah 16:5 Which explains the guilt. Because you are remaining in the fallen state, there is no progression, and no progression in this life, gives us a sense of a lack of duty. To progress in this life, in other words, means to become Godlike. The only way we do this is through listening to the holy ghost. SO we need to prepare a comfortable home for the holy ghost to nestle in and stay with us. I hope my investigator Gener realizes this. I like to compare these thoughts to the conversion on Enos. How he states in Enos 1:2 that he had to 'wrestle' to receive remission of sins. Meaning, facing his guilt. Sins make us feel vulnerable, like not protected anymore. Open to Satan. Sometimes it makes people feel like wanting to go hide under a rock, so sometimes its tough to face God, because he knows what we've done. well in verse 3 of Enos he mentions 'joy' of the saints. Billy Joel once sang a song with the lyrics "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints" well what Billy Joel hasn't figured out, but Enos did, was that the saints are crying tears of joy. Joy of repenting, and having the knowledge that your safe through the atonement. Well the next couple verses of Enos is a beautiful story of someone sincerely asking for forgiveness, and how it is given to him. Gods forgiveness always giving.
I miss you all. Thank you so much for the emails and support. greatly appreciated. Its been a great week in the Philippines. New experiences galore. I sometimes feel like Jack from Tim Burton's Nightmare before Christmas, when he enters Christmas world and has no idea what anything is, because he lives in Halloween land. He sings a song called "whats this! whats that!" Sorry for the analogy if you've never seen the movie, its just what pops in my head, and I have to hold myself back from breaking out in song. And no, i'm usually not the Thespian type.
You know, God sure got creative when he was decided what fruits he wanted to place here. Some fruits taste like beef jerky, and others taste like perfume. I even tasted this mango that had the consistency of a carrot, peeled like a cucumber, eaten like an apple, yet tastes like a mango. It confuses me every time. Oh there is this fruit, when I opened it up, it looked like there was a giant larva living inside it. Come to find out, you actually suck on the larva thingy. Creeps me out, especially the texture, but its actually pretty delicious.
SO I found this smell that I think could get any prisoner of war to talk. If the U.S. Government doesn't already use it, they need to. I first came in contact with the life threatening smell, when it entered my own home. I was caught off guard and unarmed, causing me to run around the house frantically, sticking my head in the fan, and considering jumping out the window. The worst part about it, was the the smell was actually invited in by my companion cooking. The awful gut wrenching, secret telling, smell is actually a certain dried fish. My house mates tell me that all the delicious foods here are the stinky ones, so I guess my nose needs to get used to the culture as well.
I tell you these things so you can get a little glimpse as some of the unique things I encounter each day. For example, I want to tell you about last Thursday, when we went to do "yard work" for an investigator. Considering they live in the middle of the jungle, and they tell me my job is to sweep outside, you can imagine my confusion. I was handed some branches, a pat on the back, and a push in a direction. So I started pushing the dirt and leaves around, with my couple sticks, really trying to make some sort of difference. I often looked around for someone to start laughing and tell me the prank was over, yet no one did. SO when I felt like I had stirred the jungle up a fair amount, I exclaimed I was finished and they told me I did a wonderful job, and gave me a mango as a reward. I looked back and the jungle looked the exact same to me.
Well, on a more spiritual matter, I witnessed a miracle this week. We have been teaching the Vasquez Pamilya, they are a young family, sister is 18 and brother is 24. They have new born twins. The first time we taught them, they seemed to have a lot on their plate, and little time to listen. Sister had a horrible eye infection, and she had boils all over her eye lids. Before we left their home, in the closing prayer I asked God to heal Sister Almira's eyes, and rid her from the infection and pain. I didn't know if anyone understood me, but I felt like God knew what I meant. When we visited them again for the second lesson, Sister seemed much more interested, she read the pamphlet we gave her, and she even prayed. We were extremely impressed with her efforts, considering her lack of interest before. She informed us that when we left her home, after the first lesson, within a few hours her eyes had completely healed. An infection that would have taken several days, possibly weeks to heal, took a couple hours. She said she believes its because I asked God to help her. I'm am filled with gratitude towards God for answering prayers and giving her an extra boost of faith to help her testimony to start growing. God is wonderful and so a his miracles. It also gave me a boost of faith to realize that God wants to give us blessings, all we have to do is ask for them, and if its His will, He will grant it unto us.
He have also been teaching a man named Gener. He first came upon him when he was sitting upon a crumbled wall, drinking his life away. He mentioned to us he considered suicide. We have been meeting with him as often as we can, and each time my heart breaks. His home is made up of only a couple blankets and pieces of tin. Each time we teach him, I feel Gods love for him overwhelm me. Its really neat to feel it, and I cant stop expressing how much God cares for him. Its hard sometimes to express, because usually with other people, they have tangible evidence proving Gods love. Gener is 53, never been married, no children, cannot find work, his parents and siblings are all dead. He has absolutely nothing. I don't even know how he eats, and he is always in the same outfit. I just want to cradle him in my arms and tell him everything will be okay. I wish I could take him home with me. He is progressing quick though, and I think its because his heart is so soft. I'm so glad I met Gener, shows that the gospel is for everyone, even the town drunk.
Anyway, much love, the church is true. Thats for sure.
Kumusta!!! Well its been a wonderful week in the Philippines. Honestly, every day just gets better and better. I couldn't stop grinning today, just because I was so happy to be where I am. Im so grateful God lead me into this wonderful pathway in my life. I didn't know I could have this much joy. Its a big testimony builder for me, that God knows me so well. He knows I would enjoy being in a place like this that would provide me such great entertainment each day. I love living among these different people, and learning a different way to live life. One thing that I respect about the Philipino people, is they laugh at their misfortunes. When something goes wrong, they think its incredibly funny. They also love plain jokes, similar to the ones on the back of a laffy taffy wrapper. They tell jokes that I told in second grade. I love it.
Well, God has truly blessed me this week. I felt that I could express myself clearly, and the more I really intently try to listen to what people are saying, I can usually understand and put the sentence together. Although I am so grateful for the times when I have no Idea what people are saying, because within those situations, I can be stretched and tried, yet I'll always come out on top, because I'm growing. Like any trial people go through, while enduring through it, whatever your learning is making you a more solid person. Its a beautiful process. God gave us this life for progression, not regression.
Well I would like to share a couple thoughts of mine about this past week. I am so fascinated with the children here. Some are sincerely searching for truth. Last Thursday we went to visit some families living out in the farm area. We walked through the rice fields on top of dikes, my shoes enjoyed the mud bath they received. We taught this Family about Joseph Smith, and how he offered up a humble prayer and received an answer. We told them that God will answer their prayers and they needed to pray to know the truthfulness of our message. Immediately after we said that, two children ran into the house and got out pencils and paper to take notes. I peeked at Rosemary's (who is no older than 6) notes and she was writing herself a reminder to pray to God and she was writing down the steps we were teaching them. My heart was touched by the sweet sincerity of that child, to yearn to know her Father in Heaven. I think its because children have soft hearts so its easier for the holy ghost to whisper to them.
I got the wonderful opportunity to attend the Cebu Temple Dedication this past Sunday. We all piled into the tiny chapel, and I immediately felt like I entered into a meat locker. Since the church is the only place that has air conditioning, they like to take advantage of it. I'm pretty sure it was a crisp 60 degrees in the room. The spirit was so strong it was almost tangible, I think I could have swam in it. Heaven felt so close. While waiting for the presentation to start, they displayed many views of the new Temple. It is absolutely magnificent. It confirmed my goal to marry in the house of the Lord.
Okay, now I want to fill you all in, about the Parale family. Yesterday we went and visited them, while Tatay was finishing up playing chess with a friend, Nanay made us a strange drink (I think chocolate?), and we joked around with Bernadette. Bernadette is only 14, yet she is the beacon in that family. She is continuously reading, and she knows Joseph Smith is a true Prophet. Tatay and Nanay have many concerns yet I have hope for them. We started teaching them about the Law of Chastity. Tatay always has so many questions for us. He wanted to know things such as "Is is a sin to love another than your wife, even though Christ commands us 'to love one another'?" or "What happens if you love another women besides your wife?" Its times like last night that the words of God to the prophet Joseph Smith in D+C 84:85 stating that If you continually treasure up the words of life it shall be given to you in the very moment what ye shall say. Which is interesting because earlier that morning I felt impressed to read the Book of Ephesians. (Which is currently of my favorite books in the new testament!) So then when Tatay was asking me all these questions about marriage, I felt to share with him the 5th chapter in Ephesians with him, how it says that the man and women when married become one flesh. Meaning one in purpose and they should strive to stay together. For some reason, it answered all his questions. I don't think the Parale Family has marital problems, because Tatay has a friend that belongs to the Eglacia ni Cristo church, and I think he feeds Tatay questions to catch a fault in our beliefs. For example, Tatay told us that his friend told him that he shouldn't listen to us, because we don't have the authority to read from the Bible. When he said that, tears filled my eyes and I told Tatay, what a corrupt belief that church has established. I told him that through reading the scriptures I have come to know my Father in Heaven. I told him that one of the first princibles of the fullness of the gospel is to understand the nature of God, and that the First thing Satan wants to attack, is your relationship with God. If that is destroyed, then your pathway becomes hard to understand. I told him the Holy Scriptures will tell you how to return back to God, and God wants all his children to return back to him in safety. Not just select Pastors, the word of God is for everyone of his children, he loves them all equally. I was pretty upset at Satan for establishing such a corrupt Church as the Eglacia ni Cristo. That church was founded by a former member of the LDS church. While in the church the man wrote the apostles and told them that he believed he should be called an apostle. After his request was declined, he decided to create his own church, one where the pastors only read the bible, and they try to find faults with the Book of Mormon. Whats interesting, is that before the man died this past December, he wrote a letter to his family telling them that the true church was the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. How sad it is, that through someones pride, he could lead so many souls into false beliefs. Although throughout all the many questions Tatay asks (mostly from his friend), we always have a perfect answer for him to resolve any hard question. I always pause for a moment before answering any question to listen for the Holy Ghost. There has been so many experiences with Tatays questions where the sharp voice of the spirit tells us how to reply. What a wonderful privelidge I get, to have God tell me through the Holy Ghost what Tatay needs to hear. The wonderful thing about it is, we always come out on top. Each time It confirms to me that I have truly been called of God, to help these people know the truth.
I have so much to say, yet little time (especially today). Im sorry promise to try and write more next time. Much love, take care.
Hey!! I got to Naga safe and sound! Barely. (just kidding mom) The first night, we got to Manilla after our flight, we met some man and he took Sister Cluff and I to a hotel, and gave us some pesos. He told us to catch a shuttle at 4:00 am back to the Airport for our Naga flight. After feeling cooped up the the Hotel for some time, we decided to go outside and try to find some dinner. We went to this tiny place near the hotel, and I tried a mango shake. I never knew how a real mango should actually taste! The following morning we took our tiny plane to Naga. You could feel every jerk the pilot took to steer the thing.
We met our Mission President at the Naga Airport, and he took us to the mission home. We got assigned new companions. It was so sad to say good bye to my previous companion. I often think about her and hope shes been okay these past couple days. My new companion is Sister Amie Alvarado. She is Philippa, and shes a sweetheart. She knows some English, which is good. All my house mates are Native. My president said he usually always puts Americans with Americans, although there isn't that many American Sisters anymore. Sister Cluff got assigned with the only other American sister in our mission. At the dinner table my first night, I almost started laughing, because I never imagined sitting around a picnic table, in a cement house, in the middle of the jungle, eating things I cant pronounce, and not understanding what the people around me are saying.
I'm working in an area called DAET. Its in the Camarines Norte Zone. It took a four hour bus ride from Naga. On the bus trip, we talked to other people about the gospel. It was at that point where I realized I cant sufficiently talk for myself yet. With my companion I gave brief testimony bits. I bought some kind of fruit on the bus, and I swear my companion keeps changing the name of it every time I ask her what it is. When we got to Daet, we took a tricycle to our home. That is the main transportation here. It is a motorcycle, with a side seat. Its a lot of fun to ride in, especially because they is no traffic rules here. We swerve around other trycicles, bikes, motorcyles, people and in the cities jeepnees.
After we got home, I dropped off my luggage, and we went straight to work. We first went to visit Sherly Urcia. When we got there, she had some bad news for us. She said that if she got baptized, her daughter would get kicked out of her catholic school. Its a big decision for her because i'm assuming all the nice schools are the catholic ones. I couldn't understand a lot of what was being said, although my companion translated for me. In broken Tagalog, I bore my testimony to her, to help her understand that this is one of the most important decisions of her life, and that she needs the gospel. I started crying, because even though I only knew her for 30 minutes, I cared so much about her, and to get baptized with the proper authority. After we left her house, my companion and I cried for her. It was there, when I was crying under a rusted street light, in some foreign country, raining down upon me, asking God to help that person, I realized how much this gospel really means to me. I wanted her to have the fullness of the gospel, so she could know how to return to God. Throughout time other religions have become corrupted, and the road map (Christs Gospel) back to God, has become unclear. Its times like those, I am grateful for being on a mission.. for the LDS church, because I am giving people the middle piece of their torn road map.
The other night, I learned the true meaning of hard work. When we got back to our home, sleep almost came to me with every footstep preparing for bed. I took a shower in the dark, with a little lantern. I'm not sure how they got this pipe into the home, or where the water is coming from, but its always cold. I would think it'd feel good, although its not very welcoming. For a shower, I fill up a bucket from the pipe, and then use a scoop to dump water on me. Oh and yes, its true, they do not use toilet paper. I shower in the same place I go to the bathroom. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, then I thought- Its not about myself. Its about God and other people. I'm choosing to be here because I love my brothers and sisters and i'm willing to give up my will/wants ect. for them to have this gospel. My life isn't really mine anyway, God gave it to me, therefore I need to give some back.
The language has been a huge barrier for me. The people speak Bicol as well, so I never know when they are speaking Tagalog or Bicol. I can't understand a lot, and I really want to help them. I feel so ineffective. The song "I need thee every hour" rings so true to me. its more like "I need thee every second" Some times I have felt alone, because sometimes theres language barriers with my companion and house mates. I feel relived to pray at night because I feel like God is the only one who understands me, and knows how I feel. Although there is one language I can communicate with people in. The Spirit. Thats how I can have a heart to heart with people.
The other day we visited the Olayra Family. They are recent converts, and my heart goes out to them. Their house is falling apart. Their floor is made of strips of wood, and its molding away. The poverty here is still surreal to me. I cant really believe people can survive this way. We taught them about service, which was really hard for me, because I felt like they were the ones that needed to be served.
There is always a lot of people around. In the area I am in, people have their business in their home. The stores are connected to the front part of the house. Doors and windows are always open so you can see every one in the tiny home. You don't knock here, you yell "Tao po" which means PEOPLE!! Children are so independent here. Even little toddlers walk around and do their own thing. I think I am going to kidnap some and take them back to America with me. Juuuust kidding. I wouldn't want to take them from their mothers, where ever they are.
They have HUGE families here. Like 6 kids minimum. Im wondering if its because they don't use birth control. and Im not trying to kidd- Its a serious concern of mine!!
So they pretty much use one tool for every thing here. and that special tool is your hand. Its a good thing I have 2, because its hard to decide which hand I want to use for what. Today I gutted 10 fish with both hands, ate with my left, cleaned the dishes with both, laundry with both, pulled out gunk from our sink with my right, and wiped with my right. The way of life is so interesting here. I love it. The humidity though, that is another story. Right when I came out of the Airport when I first got here, I felt like I stuck my head down by a car exhaust pipe. I am always sticky, and Im always finding bugs stuck to me. There are these tiny tiny ant looking bugs that are everywhere. I sleep with them, they roam around on my body, and when they crawl on my plate I eat them. There is no point in avoiding them.
Anyway, I love it here. Mom and Dad I want to bring you here someday. Its incredible. I'm learning to cook so many wonderful dishes, and I have tried many fruits and vegetables I never knew existed. The people here are amazing. They always stare are me, and the children always yell "whats your name!" thats the only English thing they can say, and sometimes they mix it up and yell "how many your name!"
I'm grateful for the wonderful learning lesson my mission has already taught me, and I'm thrilled to have more. Right now my learning is patience. I am so grateful for God, to help me grow and learn how to endure hardships. The language is like christmas, sometimes I just cant wait, although if i'm a good child, Santa will reward me. Hopefully God doesn't get offended that I just compared him to Santa. haha.
Sister Rachelle Hancock
Philippines Naga Mission
PO Box 8857
4400 Camarines Sur
Write the address on the envelope, then go to the post office and ask for an "International stamp". (90 cents)
She will love hearing from you!
"The bugs are eating me alive!"
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