You know one talk I loved at General Conference? The talk on gratitude from President Uchtdorf. I loved how he explained not only being grateful for things, but being grateful in our circumstances. I also loved that he said that gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes. As missionaries, one of our greatest desires is not only do missionary things, but become Christlike missionaries. What better way than through gratitude! This week I really tried to apply being grateful IN our circumstances. It was a amazing to see how in doing so, the sometimes sticky or rough situations turned into a great learning experience and even a blessing at times. Here are a few experiences to explain what I mean...
Circumstance: We had exchanges with the sisters in Isabella. It was my first time leading an exchange and I was pretty nervous. I'm pretty sure there was a typhoon because the rain was so incredibly strong for a few days and would not stop. When it rains, it's sometimes difficult to have teaching appointments because everyone's undercover. It was one of my deep desires to have this exchange be a success since we are supposed to be the examples of high indicators for the sisters in our zone. On top of that, our toilet broke and I could not figure out what was wrong with it.
Gratitude: My exchange was with the one and only SISTER FANENE!! When you're companions with this sister, it's nothing but sunshine. It was like we had never been separated...our companionship unity just continued to flow like it did when we were actual companions and she's still as astonishing as ever. Our day went like there wasn't even any rain--full of lessons and a lot of new investigators (yay for meeting key indicators!). We had a wonderful day discussing each other's areas and things we've learned. It was a tender mercy for both of us to have this companionship exchange with each other. It was a testimony builder for me that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of his children...and He shows it even through the smallest ways like bringing two sister missionaries/best friends together again for an exchange. As far as the toilet, we were just grateful we had one! haha
Circumstance: We needed to get back to Binalbagan to meet with our real companions. The ride is about 45 minutes to an hour and we ended up waiting an hour for a bus to come by (Pontevedra is a lot more remote than Bago. haha), which put us at almost 2 hours of travel. A pretty big chunk out of our day... :/
Gratitude: While waiting, we met a man named Joselito who is SO excited to listen to our message. He was taught by the elders a long time ago and wanted to continue. He asked US when we could visit him. This wouldn't have happened if the bus had come 5 minutes earlier than it did. 55 minutes waiting for a bus for the salvation of a soul? SO worth it.
Circumstance: Because it was the week of Easter, they have what they call 'Holy Week' here. Where they go to church and then have processions of Saints, and other events through the week to celebrate Christ. Today happened to be the day of the procession. Which meant no one was home. They were all at the procession. We went to one of our further areas, thinking maybe people wouldn't have gone to the procession because it's so far, but still. No people.
Gratitude: We talked to the neighbor of the less active family who wasn't home and he agreed to let us share with him! His name is Nielsen, and his wife Joanna was there too with their new baby. They were so receptive to our message, and I was especially impressed with how well Nielsen received the message. Had the less active family been home, we probably never would have thought to stop by this man's house and share our message of eternal families!
Circumstance: Nelly and Erwin Rusia (very active members that are just starting their family) live in the most poorest condition, and go to the ocean each day to find shells for their food each day. Their house is tiny and made of bamboo and palm leaves.
Gratitude: They are the happiest little couple. Sister Nelly is SO positive and constantly talking about how blessed they are. She knows that as they keep striving to keep the commandments, the Lord will bless them. I know she's right. They are truly a living example to me of gratitude IN the circumstance. We are also teaching their 12 year old neice, Allyza. She is adorable and so so sweet. She's currently living with the Rusia's so she can go to school here. She is full of tears every time we teach her and she soaks everything up like a sponge. We're praying her parents will give consent for her to be baptized, but we're so grateful for the Rusia's and they're wonderful example and influence on Allyza and all their other nieces and nephews they've helped bring to the truth.
Circumstance: It's summer here. Which means HOT. As in. Extremely hot.
Gratitude: At least I have an umbrella to cover myself from the sun. :)
Circumstance: Giving a talk in Sacrament, teaching Primary, and helping organize a branch missionary meeting (held for the first time in who knows how long).
Gratitude: Speaking in a tiny branch house is the best thing EVER. The spirit was so powerful during the Sacrament too. I LOVE Pontevedra. :) And Filipino primary kids? Yeah, cutest things ever, even if there was only 10 of them. :) AND we had a ton of our investigators come. Hooray for miracles and answers to prayers!
Circumstance: One of the recent converts, Marilou, who has a husband and 2 little kids, is so very poor. They have no electricity so they cook in the day when it's light, and live in what looks like a shack. Brother Eric rides a bike all day selling ice cream, so they're income is very low.
Gratitude: Marilou has the biggest smile and even though sometimes all they have to eat is rice, she always offers us some. Of course we tell her we're fine. But what an example of selflessness! She always loves when we visit and share the Gospel with her. It's so true that the biggest hope offered in this world is the Gospel and Christ's Atonement. I've seen how it's given optimism, enthusiasm, and confidence to even the poorest, saddest, and hopeless circumstances and people. What a blessing this Gospel is!!
Circumstance: Norma, one of our investigators, suffered a stroke a few years ago. As she gave the closing prayer, she sobbed as she expressed how she wishes she could have just died because it's been hard for her to experience the after effects of the stroke.
Gratitude: As Norma prayed, she gave thanks that she has been able to get to know us sisters and our message, and that she now knows she still has a mission and purpose here on earth. She was saved from death because Heavenly Father loves her and still has more for her to do. She was speaking in Tagalog, so Sister Manosig had to translate for me later, but as she prayed, you could sure feel the spirit and her deep gratitude.
This week sure has been wonderful, looking back and seeing how truly blessed I am to be where I am and doing what I'm doing. I know that God loves us, and that one of the best ways we can show gratitude for His love and His Son's Atonement, is bringing others to Christ. I'm grateful I get to do this full time. I'm grateful for my companion, for my area, for the Pontevedra branch and members. I'm grateful for living apostles and prophets, for the restored Gospel, for Joseph Smith. I'm especially grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement and for the opportunity to repent each and every day. I'm grateful for a merciful Heavenly Father. I know He loves us. I know that as we find gratitude IN our circumstances, like Nephi when he was bound by his brothers (1 Nephi), then we will feel the power of the Atonement more fully in our lives and we will be happier and become more Christlike.
Thank you all for YOUR wonderful examples of gratitude and Christlike service. I truly look up to all the amazing family and friends in my life who are so steadfast and immovable in the Gospel. Keep doing what you're doing!!
Have a great week! Palangga ko kamo!
"Laundry last p-day...in the bathroom cuz it rained aalllll day"
"Exchanges with Sister Fanene and Sister Tampos! Sister Fanene's and mine's companionship unity is still in action....we did NOT plan what we wore. haha :)"
"The ocean is in our area!!!!"
"The Semanillo family"
"Working with Ariane, one of our awesome branch missionaries"