Thank you so much for the updates and the prayers that I know you're sending my way! I don't have too much time this week, but I'll do my best to get everything in.
It's been a crazy couple of weeks- We did get to go to Sister Malietoa's appointment, and drove all around Provo getting medicine and things, and we finished up the MTC!! It really was such a great place, and I learned a lot. I'm just excited to keep learning. And we left Monday morning, and had to pack and do a million things, and ride Frontrunner and TRAX to the airport with all our luggage, but I really just felt peace, that I'm doing the right thing, that the Lord is looking out for me, and that he hears and answers my prayers.
Then I got to call you! I think everyone in the airport was looking at me crying, but it's okay. It was so good to hear from all of you! I hope you know how much I love you, and the only thing that lets me be really happy when I don't get to talk with all of you is the pure truth and light of this gospel, and that I know the Lord's plan for me. And Filipino people love you too! A man on the plane told me that he could sense that my dad was really smart, and then all the branch members wanted to have a picture of my beautiful family to put in their book of remembrance. So, if you're having a bad day, know that some Filipinos love you! That definitely helps me!
Oh, quickly, right after I got off the phone with you in LAX we had a huge miracle. Sister Rugg said hi to a little baby, and eventually, we shared just about the whole first lesson with Priya, who is so prepared for this gospel. I'd been praying that I could share the gospel in our travel, and I really hope that the referral we gave to the Australian missions goes somewhere.
I'm companions with Sister Rugg again! I guess we have more to learn together, or the Lord knew that we could do this together. We're both being trained by Sister (Naomi) Yanga- she went to BYUH and graduated a year ago- she took pictures for the Ke Alaka'i so I knew her name, and she knows all these people that I know- I think she worked with Sister Alisa for a long time, and she was an art major. Most trainers for sisters are training two sisters because we had 23 sisters arrive, and there were only 20 sisters in Cebu mission after the mission split, some who are still training or being trained.
So I'm in the Philippines! I took a shower with a bucket this morning (we do have a shower, but sometimes the water pressure doesn't really work), I flushed the toilet by pouring water into it, I boiled water for breakfast so I don't get sick, and I scratched mosquito bites in front of a fan blowing full blast, trying to dry my soaked shoes. And it's wonderful! I love it!
I'm not actually on Cebu Island, I'm on Negros, the other big island that stayed in Cebu mission, not Cebu East. I'm in the furthest away area from the mission home so we did lots of traveling in the first few days. It's called Bayawan, and it's a super cute city. There's a lot of sugar cane fields, and out there regions, but the elders have those places because they have bikes, and we have the city area, which means that the one main road, right next to the ocean and then all the little baranggays next to it. It's pretty big, and it's a fun walk. It used to be two areas, but they've been combined because the work was a little slow- but in three months, they'll probably be split again. Apparently, after my three months of training, I'm probably going to be taking one of those areas and training a new missionary. Just another impossibly sounding thing that I guess I'm going to do here with the help of the Lord. So I really need to learn what I'm doing here fast, and how to speak this language. We had to ride a 6 hour boat ride, and then stay over night in a different city and then 2 more hours on a bus. It's great!
Visaya is hard- that's the short of it. But I'm being helped. I can understand people, at least partly, and I can say some things- Sister Rugg and I both contribute in our lessons with a scripture or story or testimony, and I can say "Ako si Sister Tueller" to everyone in this place. I know that even if it seems impossibly, I can get this language down, because I guess I need to. And everyone is so nice here. They're so surprised that I know any words of their language, because I'm American. Everyone stares at us, and comments loudly on how big we are, or how long my nose is, or how white I am. And it's great! These are apparently all compliments in the Philippines, and they're a blunt people anyway.
We're here in a little branch- about 100 people, and a lot of inactives. Until just recently, the Cebu mission was a rescue mission, with a focus on strengthening the members we already have. We're now in a balance time- but we still spend a lot of times with in actives, who are all super nice.
- This is part of my letter to my mission president copied because I'm running out of time but I want you to know what's going on here!
The work in Bayawan is progressing well. The branch was so welcoming and loving, especially the youth of the ward. I can see the strength of the youth, and I'm inspired by it. The branch has also just called a branch mission leader, and we'll be giving a fireside on member missionary work on Friday. I'm excited to be here at a time that the work in Bayawan is hastening, and I only hope to be an instrument in the Lord's hand to help this work go forward. We're teaching a few investigators along with many less-active members but everyone has been really receptive and progressing, at least as much as I understand. Sis. Yanga has told us that she's seeing changes already according to the faith of the branch leaders, and as we have faith that the Lord is preparing people. I really love these members and investigators already. I see their faith and humility and I can't deny the truth of this gospel. They're so kind, as I try to speak with my broken Visaya, and everyone loves us for our effort.
This week really has been wonderful. I feel the arm of the Lord holding me up. On Monday evening, we had a FHE with a family in the branch and her sister who is an investigator. I felt like I could communicate enough, and there was so much love present. This family has been sealed in the temple, and you can tell. Seeing Sister Vivian and her family helped me to see that if I can help just one person have that joy, I've done the Lord's work. Yesterday, we got to meet with Sister Alona, the investigator who was there, and her live-in husband Bryan. I guess he hasn't been willing to participate before, but he joined happily. Sister Yanga followed the spirit and we read the Introduction to the Book of Mormon with them. I know they felt the spirit and the truthfulness of the Book. I know that it's true, and that if they'll just try it, they'll know. After we closed, two miracles occurred. First, Alona told us that usually their baby cries when the missionaries come, but he was so good. (This was especially poignant because we'd just left an appointment because a baby was scared of our American faces.) Second, they told us that they have a plan to be married. The city sponsors free weddings in December, so money won't be an issue. I know that the Lord is working in their lives.
This week, we've focused as a companionship on acting in faith. This is a principle that I really love, and I have a huge testimony that we can't simply have faith, we must exercise our faith to show God that we trust him. I'm trying every day to have Faith, not fear, and doing those actions that show my faith through obedience, diligence and following the spirit. I know that this gospel is true. There are such wonderful fruits of this seed, and through that, I know that the seed is pure goodness. I know that my Savior lives and that he stand with his arm outstretched for everyone. My work now is to help people see his hand and accept it. I know that through him, and only through Him, we can be saved and receive eternal life. I know that Joseph Smith was called of God, and that through the power of God, he translated the Book of Mormon. I know that I have also been called of God, and that I have work to do here that I promised to fulfill. I need to find that work and do it.