Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Astonishing Week

Hello my wonderful family and friends! 

Goodness, what a wonderful week full of so many Christmas miracles! But that's really nothing new. It was such a wonderful Christmas week--one of the best Christmas's I've had. :) It started with Tuesday. We visited a lot of our investigators and recent converts and then ended our night at Bishop Delos Santos' home. The Spirit was so incredibly strong in their household. They fed us a nice Christmas eve dinner and then we shared a Christmas message with them with our testimonies. It sounds like a typical visit or lesson, but it was probably one of the strongest times I've felt the Spirit on my mission. Bishop and his family literally felt like my family at that moment and as I bore my testimony of the Savior, my gratitude and love for Him and everything else just overflowed into tears. All throughout the day and into the evening I just had the biggest amount of gratitude and love and spirit in my heart. Sister Fanene and I had a nice little evening together doing our tradition at home reading Luke 2 and writing our gifts to Jesus for the coming year and putting it in the stocking you sent. She had never done that before but loved it! I absolutely love Sister Fanene and I'm so grateful I was able to spend Christmas eve and Christmas with her. There's no one else I would have rather spent Christmas with sharing the best message in the world.  :) 

Wednesday we woke up and I opened up the package from Ryan and Megan that came on the 24th (Thanks! Came just in time! You two are the best!) and other little gifts from home. I felt so loved. :) Then we had the best white Christmas ever!!! We had the baptism of three beautiful Filipinos... Erika and EJ Herrera, and Glance Dhale Lamela. It was the absolute best way to start off our Christmas day, watching three of Heavenly Father's children (and several others because we had a stake baptism) enter the waters of baptism. They were nothing but smiles and afterward EJ bore the sweetest testimony. After the baptisms we skyped! Yay! I'm so grateful for modern technology and the fact that I was able to see and talk to you, all the way around the world! Later we visited Sister Pailano. She lives in a very small, humble home, and I felt so blessed that we got to spend a bit of our Christmas with her. She was so sweet and gave us a little Christmas pamahaw and we shared a Christmas message with her. We spent the rest of the day visiting some less active members and investigators, sharing our testimonies of the Savior with a Christmas Hymn and message. It felt so right celebrating the day of the Savior's birth doing exactly what He would be doing if He were here. My heart was so full of joy and the spirit. :) I also had fun giving away the candy canes Megan and Ryan sent in the package. The kids absolutely loved them! :) It was such a wonderful day that I will never forget. I'm so grateful for Jesus Christ and His Atonement. My understanding and appreciation has grown so much deeper since coming on my mission and I feel nothing but gratitude and love for all that He has done for me. The least I can do is do what I'm doing now, and doing so with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I decided that the best gift I can really give my Savior every year, all year long, is my heart. Just like the Christmas carol (I think In the Bleak Midwinter) says. "Yet, what I can, I can give Him, give Him my heart." I'm going to do my best to give my heart wholeheartedly to the Savior every day of my mission and for the rest of my life, in just the smallest way of expressing my gratitude and love for all that He has done for me, even though I know it will never be enough. 

Thursday was so wonderful because we had zone conference! President is so incredibly inspired and has asked that the first lesson we teach less active members and recent converts is the law of tithing. He was very bold in the way we should teach it. Here are some questions that might get you thinking about the law of tithing and why we've been asked to teach it so often: Why is the law of tithing exclusive to the members only? What are its specific blessings that are not available in other commandments? How does the law of tithing affect those who do not have jobs? We discussed each of these questions and the power that comes when members realize the importance of tithing. Because we'll be teaching this commandment so much, if anyone has a story of how tithing has blessed your life, will you please email, dearelder, or write that story to me? I want to gather a bank of tithing stories that I can share with my investigators, recent converts, and less actives, to help them realize the importance and blessings of tithing. Thanks! As part of our zone conference we also watched the Christmas devotional. :) I also loved what President said. He said that even though Christmas celebrations will end, we can still have Christmas every day by being the angels bringing forth good tidings of great joy to the people in the Philippines each day. And then after our missions continue to be an example to others through word and deed and share the Gospel by shining brightly with the countenance and example of Christ just like the Star in Bethlehem. 

Saturday we applied what we learned at zone conference and taught the law of tithing to Sister Lourna Garceniego and her daughter Dayna Fedilos (recent converts). They are  very poor families but we promised that if they would pay a full tithe, the Lord would always provide food on their tables. It was a pretty powerful lesson and they promised they would pay a full tithe. 

Come to Sunday and we (or I guess I should say the Garceniego and Fedilos family) witnessed a miracle. Sister Fanene and I had participated in the ward Christmas devotional by singing and so afterward Bishop gave us some fruit baskets to deliver. We were heading out to our farthest area, even though it was pouring rain, so we offered to take some fruit to the members out there. At first I was a little discouraged because my umbrella was broken and proselyting while soaking wet isn't really that fun. haha But I have the best companion in the world. We had had an awesome study earlier about astonishing people and she wanted to astonish everyone that day. Even by wearing her bright pink sweater. ;) Anyway, she just put on the biggest smile and started belting Hark All Ye Nations in the soaking rain. My blip of discouragement turned right around because of her and I joined right in in singing. We traveled in the dark to our first stop, Jaymon. He is one of our awesome progressing investigators. He's 22 years old but lives by himself. He had spent Christmas alone so we took the fruit basket that the Bishop had given to us as missionaries to eat, and decided to give it to him. It was such a spirit filled moment when we told him that even though he spent Christmas alone, we were going to celebrate it right then and there with him. We told him that he is really never alone with our Savior and Heavenly Father and that he has a ward family that loves him too. Then we gave him the fruit and he got THE biggest grin on his face. Oh my goodness, it just made me so happy inside. So worth the travel, rain, and darkness, just to visit his humble, candle-lit home and share the love we know the Savior has for him. Afterward, because of the rain, there weren't very many tricycles to head back to Bago. I was getting a little worried we'd have to walk I don't know how far to get back home, but Sister Fanene has the biggest faith EVER! She just knew the Lord would provide, and sure enough, a tricycle came literally out of nowhere just as we decided we'd start walking to Bago. We stopped by the Garceniego and Fedilos family and here's where the other miracle came in...we shared our message with them and then gave them the fruit baskets. Then Sister Lourna said that right when we came, they were in the middle of a discussion about tithing. Dayna was figuring out how much she needed to set aside to give on Sunday. Lourna and her family were over at her daughter's, Dayna's house, because they didn't have sudtan (or the side dish that goes with the rice). As they were exercising their faith and setting aside the money for their tithing, we unexpectedly came to visit them (we have never visited them at night) and came with fruit baskets for them. I was just astonished. :) Miracle right there. I hope they never forget this experience. Even though they hadn't actually paid the tithing yet, I know that because of the huge leap of faith they were taking in paying from their very small income and setting it aside to pay the following Sunday, that Heavenly Father blessed them. It was so awesome!! I'm so grateful for the Spirit in inspiring us to visit that area at that time. And if you think about it, if the tricycle we had waited for had come any earlier, we would've arrived at the Garceniego and Fedilos family household earlier, possibly before their discussion on tithing. It just blows me away how Heavenly Father has His hand and timing in every little thing...all the way down to the time that we caught a tricycle. And then to add to the miracles, after our visit with them, we still had to make it home to Bago. But right as we were leaving, a tricycle drove by and we were able to make it home before curfew. Pure miracle considering the situation of the weather we were in. And that's just the beginning. There were so so many other miracles throughout the day. The more I realize and recognize the blessings and tender mercies of the Lord, the more I realize just how much His hand is in my life. He is in every single little detail and if I were to keep track of every single little miracle and tender mercy that He gave me each day, my brain might explode. My journal would too! haha I'm just so grateful for the Spirit that has allowed me to recognize these miracles more and more throughout my mission and I hope to always stay worthy of the Spirit to always see the miracles He blessed me and all His children with. He truly does love all His children and He is so mindful of each and every one of us. It blows my mind how He is able to be so mindful of every single one of His children on the earth, all at the same time, but that just proves to me even more that He is our Almighty God and loving Heavenly Father. His love is eternal and endless. Of all the lessons we teach, I think one of the most important is from the very beginning. Lesson one, principle one: God is Our Loving Heavenly Father.

 I'm so grateful for the love I feel from my Father each day and for the opportunity I have to help others come to know and feel our Heavenly Father's love for them as well. His love is astonishing, and I want to share it with all I come in contact with.
Christmas Eve with the Bishop's family.
(Thanks to Bishop Santos and his family for sharing Christmas Eve with Sister Dixon and Sister Fanene. We are so grateful for their service and love to our sweet daughters. So grateful it "felt like home".)

Dinner time.

Looks delicious!

"White Christmas"

Baptisms on Christmas Day

Jessica sent us a picture of us-- made me laugh. Do you see her in the right corner taking the photo?
Love that girl! :)

Christmas goodies from Ryan and Megan--so kind and generous.

Christmas Day treat with Sister Pailano--the Relief Society President

A purple root crop that tastes like a potato

Recent convert families. (Jessica shared their tithing story in her email).

"A pretty tree by our apartment"

I hope all of YOU have an astonishing week, full of miracles and love from our Heavenly Father. Love you all so much and hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Have a safe and happy New Year!

All my love,
Sister Dixon 

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