Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I am a firm believer in Tender Mercies. They happen Every. Single. Day. We just have to look for
them. Today was no exception. Our sweet Jessica is 7,500 miles away as we, her Mom and Dad, celebrate birthdays these next couple of days. She is such a tender heart, and has always made our birthdays extra special. Although, miles and miles separate us, she did it again!  This morning, there was a very timely Facebook post from Jessica's mission president loaded with pictures of Jessica. My eyes filled with tears. The pictures made it seem like she was almost here ---almost!  Even though I would love to have her home as we celebrate, I am filled with gratitude this year, for the special gift she is giving us as parents as she serves her Heavenly Father... full-time!. In all honesty, what more could a parent want as a gift for a life-time of birthdays? Thanks, Jessica for "Coming into our Home" today, for sharing your sweet smile, and for giving us a gift that is eternal in nature. We love you to the moon and back!

Here are a few of the many photos President Lopez posted on Facebook, this very morning, pretty sure... just for me :)!!

Preparing to meet their new companions!

Sister Beccerra and Sister Dixon
Meeting their new companions for the first time

Training from President Lopez

Jessica playing "Called to Serve"

Speaking in Hiligaynon about the Holy Ghost

Singing solo, "Teach Me to Walk in the Light"

Jessica's new companion, Sister Tanes bearing her testimony.

Lunch time! Look at that LARGE pizza! :)
There was ice cream, too!

New companionships

Sister Dixon and Sister Tanes

...And they're off! God Speed!
Love you much, Sister Dixon!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mighty Miracles and a Transfer Call!

This week was one of the best weeks of my whole mission! It was a testament to me of the tender mercies and miracles of the Lord when we stay faithful through struggles and trials. Last week my letter might have sounded a bit rough, but we tried stay positive, faithful, and obedient. As a result, the Lord has truly poured out His blessings upon us. The trials actually kept going a bit into the first part of this past week, but by the time Wednesday hit, the miracles were not ceasing! 

Tuesday we had an inspiring lesson on Virtue and Knowledge from Elder Cruz. There was a festival going on in Bago this day and on Wednesday, so everyone was pretty busy or not home. There's no school when there's festival days, so all the kids were home. We tried teaching Alex and Jennifer, but there were just SO many kids, that we had to think of something creative and still teach Jennifer and Alex the doctrine needed. We ended up teaching the 10 commandments with the hand signs and they loved it! They're such cute kids and love learning about the Gospel.

Wednesday we visited our usual investigators--Jennifer and Alex, as well as Cecile, but the kids were still out of school. This time we taught the wise man and the foolish man and talked about Jesus Christ as our rock. Alex was more than happy to join in and learn the song. He is so child-like! :) Later that night we visited Mark and Nancy and this is where the miracle of all miracles happened. As of last Sunday, Nancy was still hesitant to be baptized and Mark was still stuck in his depression and confusion and doubt. When we came in the house, there was a change, but we couldn't figure it out yet. When Mark came out of his room, he had the biggest smile on his face. We were shocked. Sister Fanene said, "Mark! You're happy! Are you happy?" He said with a laugh, "No, it's so boring here!" haha But as the night went on, he just kept cracking jokes and smiling like crazy! Because it was the main night of the festival, they fed us dinner, and while we were eating we invited them to the baptism on Saturday of Jhannah and Joshua. Nancy said, "our baptism?" We said no and clarified and then she said, "oh, well we'd be happy to be baptized Saturday!" We were kind of speechless for a second, not sure if we really heard what she said. We asked her and sure enough, she's ready to be baptized!! The Spirit has completely testified to her that this is the right thing for her right now. We were overjoyed! She's set to be baptized the same day as Mark--March 15. Sister Fanene and I left the house just stunned at what had happened. The miracles of the Lord are endless. After so long of trying to help Mark and teach in a way for the Spirit to testify to Nancy, the Lord was merciful and poured a literal miracle into our laps.

Thursday we had a little activity with Jhannah. We had her make an invitation for her baptism to give to her mom since she's less active. It was so cute. We delivered a few of the invitations to some of the ward members and had her bear her testimony and then we sang the latter-day prophets song we taught her and Glance. She was pretty nervous to testify at her baptism so by doing this little activity we were hoping she'd be more confident in bearing testimony to a bigger group of people. She did great! Then we visited Hermini Gildo Lipat. He's the less active that just walked randomly into the Garceniego's house last week. His granddaughter was with him and the way they interacted was adorable. We talked about God's love since brother expressed how he feels like he's sinned so much that God doesn't love him anymore. Hopefully we can help him understand that God always has loved him, and always will. We also visited Alex, Jennifer, Mark and Nancy as well and they are progressing so wonderfully!   

Friday we had weekly planning then visited Jennifer and she said she'd come to church on Sunday! We visited Jhannah and Glance later that night, as well as Joshua to make they were both set and ready for their big day! They were both excited. :)

Saturday was the big baptism day! We started off by visiting Alex and Jennifer first and had some pretty spirit-filled lessons as we read and applied scriptures from the Book of Mormon to their situations. Then we picked up Jhannah since her mom couldn't make it to the baptism. We were pretty sad about that but Jhannah sure looked pretty when we picked her up, and she was so excited! Joshua came with his sister, Princess. The baptism went very well and Jhannah Lamigo and Joshua De Ramos are now the newest members of the Bago 2nd ward!! After the baptism we attended the Young Women's New Beginnings and Laarni, the YW president (she's 19) did a great job at arranging everything. We were asked to testify of our experiences in Young Women and how it prepared us to serve our missions. I'm truly grateful for the Young Women's program and for Personal Progress, and even though I didn't know I'd be serving a mission while I was a young woman, it has blessed me and prepared me more than I can ever say. I hope these young women will be able to see the blessings of Young Women and stay strong to be amazing missionaries and mothers someday! After that, brother Romano Balair from the Bago 1st ward had a referral for us and wanted to come with us. He's been best friends with this man (they're basically brothers) for the longest time. His name is Remil Rapedro, and even though he drinks, he wants to change. We went to his house and met him, his wife, Lillybeth, and his four kids, Lovely (11), Nika (10), Carl (7), and Karen (5 months old). The spirit was SO strong as we met with this family for the first time and discussed a bit about our religion. We can really feel the love that Brother Romano has for this family and he wants so much for them to have the same blessings and peace he has felt in his life. The family was very receptive and even though the parents said they couldn't make it to church the next day, Lovely and Nika were very excited. We're excited to see how this family will grow in the Gospel. I'm incredibly grateful for the Spirit. Apparently Brother Romano hasn't had so many great experiences with missionaries, so we were praying the Spirit would be present in our lesson, especially with the family he holds so dear. We as missionaries, without the power and authority of our call, are just normal, average, every day people. It's truly the power of the Spirit that teaches and testifies to the hearts of the people. We were grateful that after the lesson, Brother Romano thanked us for the Spirit we brought in the lesson. We know it wasn't us though, it was truly Heavenly Father pouring tender mercies of His Spirit on this family and Brother Romano. 

Sunday was great because Jennifer came to church for the first time! The ward did a great job at swarming her with love. Alex came too, and he shaved and combed his hair! He looked great. :) The two Rapedro girls, Lovely and Nika, came as well. We had wonderful meetings and then Sister Fanene and I did a missionary preparation training for the single adults in our ward. I've just gotta say that I have one amazing companion. The spirit Sister Fanene brings to her teaching/training is incredible. Then we worked with Michelle and visited the Rapedro family. We taught the Restoration and the Spirit was so tangible. They committed to be baptized in April! We also were invited to dinner at the Moises' family household. They are active and so very kind and just hilarious, especially brother. We stopped by Mark and Nancy as well and we just can't get over the change in Mark! It's night and day difference and we're so grateful for the power of the Atonement that has taken place in his life. 

Well, as I'm writing this, we just got transfer calls so now I can't really concentrate on what I'm writing. haha Sister Fanene will be transferring and I'll be staying in Bago to train a new missionary. I feel so blessed to have experienced two of the best transfers of my mission with Sister Fanene. I have learned so much from her of what it means to love wholeheartedly, serve selflessly, be exactly obedient, teach in the Spirit, be positive in all things, have faith, and work hard. She is truly a bright light to all who know her and will do wonders in her next area. I love her so much and will be eternally grateful Heavenly Father placed us together to be companions. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Thank you all for your love and prayers! I truly feel them and appreciate them. Oh, I got letters this week from the Allred's, the Clifford's, Mom, and Rissy. Thank you so much! And happy birthday to Mom on Thursday and Dad on Saturday! I love you both sooo much!! You'll never know just how much. :) Have a fantastic birthday!! xoxoxo

All my love, 
Sister Dixon

"Sorry, We're OPEN"?  :)

A festival in Bago

Jessica's district

Teaching the children

"The Wise man built his house upon the rock...."

"I love the Philippines and the people"

We can hear that laugh. :)
Enjoying the journey!

What beautiful children.

Young Single Adult activity to prepare the youth for missions.

Philippine Art

Dresses Nancy made us with the fabric Sister Fanene's family sent. :) 
We love Sister Fanene very much. She is like our fifth daughter. :)

Sister Fanene, Mark, Nancy, and Sister Dixon
(Nancy is the sweet sister who made the awesome dresses).

A path Sister Fanene and Sister Dixon take as they visit a family.

Look at the size of the caribou in the background.
 Jessica said it is tame and roped :)!
"There are never good-byes in the gospel, just see you laters"
We love you, Sister Fanene and wish you well on your transfer.
You will always hold a special place in our hearts!

Monday, February 17, 2014

"A Little Tiny Taste of how Heavenly Father Feels..."

Hello friends and family!

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s week, or here (as a few of them say), “Happy Heart’s Day!” :)

Monday was a pretty typical MondayTuesday we had a good lesson with Cecile about the Sabbath Day. She owns a tiangee and runs it on Sunday. When we asked her what we shouldn’t do on Sunday, she said, “not work.” So then we asked her what SHE would be doing on Sunday. She paused and said, “…I can’t promise I won’t close my tiangee.”  We’re working on this commandment with her. She is very kind and sweet and we know that she’ll come to accept the Gospel eventually because she’s reading the Book of Mormon everyday during her down time in the tiangee. And even better, she’s understanding the Book of Mormon without our help! We taught a few other investigators, including Arnold Alarcon. We’ve recently started teaching him and it’s been neat to see the progression of his understanding as he reads the Book of Mormon. He also asks good questions, which we always love.

Wednesday we had our Mission President’s Training with President Lopez. We focused a lot on teaching the commandments from chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel. It was helpful watching other missionaries teach and learning from their teaching skills so that I can apply it into my own teaching. After our training we visited Alex, John John, Jennifer, Irene, and Rinagen with the Garceniego’s. We also visited Mark and his family. Nancy is more open with us with each visit, but she still has a hard time grasping the concept between family culture and God’s culture. We helped them understand that sometime we have to let go of family or nation traditions and cultures to be aligned with God’s culture. Sister Fanene had an awesome example about tribal tattoos in Samoa. It’s part of their culture and tradition, but goes against God’s culture. Her experience seemed to help them understand a lot better and we can see how Nancy’s faith is growing stronger each day as she reads the Book of Mormon. At this point she’s almost progressing faster than Mark! Afterward we visited Joshua De Ramos. We visit him and Jhanna every night and they’re preparing well for their baptism this Saturday. The change we’ve seen in Joshua has been amazing. He was a little terror when we first met him but now he is so well behaved and polite. His sister, Princess, is a huge help to him and makes sure he reads the Book of Mormon every day and reviews what we’ve taught with him. Their mom recently moved to Manila so it’s just the two of them at home. Princess is 18 years old and so tough! We love her.

Thursday we visited Mark and Nancy and we were finally able to find Nancy’s concern for not wanting to be baptized yet. Her husband works in Saudi Arabia and only comes home every two years for 45 days. She wants to wait until he’s home to discuss things with him, which is very understandable. She still stays strong though in reading the Book of Mormon and has great questions. She asks us before we even start our lesson! We also met with Jennifer Mariposa and she really opened to us about her situation with her husband. He doesn’t talk to her very much and they fight quite a bit. She got emotional talking about how much she wants to have a normal family and worries her kids will have emotional problems because of their family situation. We couldn’t help but cry with her and expressed our love for her and the love we feel from Heavenly Father for her. After that we had quite the lesson with Alex and Brother Mariposa. We were teaching the Law of Chastity and making it as least awkward as possible, but I think Alex felt a bit uncomfortable still. He kept asking Brother Mariposa, “do you have any questions for the missionaries?” As if he was the third missionary. Haha At one point the two of them just started talking at the same time, one to me and one to Sister Fanene, and Alex was speaking Tagolog. Phew! We were able to settle down the situation and afterward had a good laugh about everything as we were walking to our next appointment. I’m grateful Heavenly Father gives us little ‘comic relief’ lessons to help with the deep, emotional lessons we have. Especially this day.

Friday was Valentine’s day so we handed out the Valentine’s you sent in the package (which I had received Wednesday---thank you!!!). The kids LOVED them! We had a lesson with Jennifer and discussed how she can strengthen her relationship with her husband and most importantly, with Heavenly Father, to help her. She expressed a lot of thanks and felt a lot of happiness and peace after we read through some scriptures and bore our testimonies to her of God's love for her. We asked if she'd come to church on Sunday and she said it'd be a surprise....uh, that's a new one! I've never heard that reply before and didn't quite know what to say! We just told her that we hoped the surprise would make us happy on Sunday, not sad. haha We hit a few more of our appointments and then stopped by the Garceniego's. Then low and behold, a miracle walked in the door. Brother Hermini Gildo Lipat. He was baptized in 1983 and has long since been a less active. He came in to ask if we knew a Sister Anderson and Sister Hill from Salt Lake. I guess they were the sisters who taught him. We told him sorry we didn't, but then he started asking us all these questions about Joseph Smith. He had forgotten a lot of things, so we taught him the Restoration which cleared up a lot of things. We set up a return appointment to visit him on Tuesday because he wants us to teach his wife and to "convince him to come to church".... he's a funny man and we'll do what we can to help him. 

Saturday we had our basketball clinic, but no one really showed up. It's okay though, it was a good lesson on patience. We had our correlation meeting with Bishop and then visited Alex and Jennifer. Jennifer was really apologetic and said she wouldn't be able to make it to church because she had a meeting to go to about government funding for the less fortunate (for her kids to go to school). We visited Mark and Nancy, as well as Jhanna and Joshua as well. It was kind of a punty day, but some days are like that, and we just learn more patience from them and carry on the next day! :) 

Sunday was great! Nancy came to church again with Mark and Alex came as well! After church Jhanna and Glance had their baptismal interviews and did great! We visited Jennifer and she told us that she got up the courage to ask her husband about her baptism. He didn't give a reply, but we love that she's exercising her faith and has the true desire to be baptized! Afterward, we had a prompting to go to Proper to visit Cecile. On the way we saw Jaymon (one of our recent converts) and he had a cigarette in his hand. :( My heart literally sunk to the pit of my stomach and I felt like I needed to throw up. Ever since his baptism we've been a bit worried for him because he suddenly stopped coming to church and he never answers our texts. He did one time and said he had moved to Bacolod to work, so when we saw him, our hearts just sunk. In Preach My Gospel it says it's common that when recent converts suddenly stop coming to church, it's usually because they fall back into an old addiction habit and are too embarrassed or disappointed to go back to church. I think the thing that got us though was that he told us several times that he had never smoked or drank, or anything like that. It was a rough experience for me to handle and I'm still pondering on it and seeking inspiration to know how to help him. I think this experience has given me just a little tiny taste of the sorrow Heavenly Father feels when his children don't keep His commandments. It's a pretty nasty feeling. After we visited Cecile we visited the Garceniego's and found out their cute little puppy Paprika drank poison and died and that Rinagen had a UTI. Goodness, I think Heavenly Father really needed us to learn a lesson this day! We sang "Count Your Many Blessings" to keep things positive and it's a good thing Sister Fanene is so upbeat and has a sense of humor to keep our rather bad news day from pulling us down. 

This week I gained a greater appreciation for the Savior and His Atonement and my love for Him has grown a lot in just one week. No matter the trial, sin, sickness, or whatever the case may be, He loves us unconditionally. I know He lives and loves each one of us and will never leave us alone. He is ready and willing, always, to reach out His arms in love, healing, and forgiveness. I know that through trials and experiences, and that through His grace and the enabling and redeeming power of His Atonement, that we can be strengthened and come closer to Him. 

Love you all so much!

All my love, 
Sister Dixon 

Sister Fanene's "holy, holey" shoe

Sister Dixon turning on the air--I have never seen a music stand used that way!

"Ducks for Rissy"


Valentines for the children.

Roses for the sisters.

"THE cutest baby in the world, and her cute family. :) "

"Giving Oreos to the kids--Sister Fanene got a package with a bunch of Oreos, her favorite cookie, so what does she do? Give them away. That's just how she is. :) Love her."

"Cecile and her nieces and nephews and her Tiangee." 

"Riding in the tricycle"

"Our beds and pajamas. Pretty much defines our personalities to a T."