Saturday, August 31, 2013

I Love Bayawan

Someone in the Philippines liked the idea of I <3 NY shirts, but it doesn't work with so many letters, so they just put this on shirts, with strange colors. 

But this week, I wanted to tell you some reasons that I <3 Bayawan!As a background, this week, we were told that every companionship in our mission would have some changes this transfer because of the 30 new missionaries who are arriving today. We had to brace ourselves for the change, and then it didn't happen! Something with the housing in a prospective area didn't work, and so we get to stay! 

Reasons I love Bayawan1: Maayong Hapon- everyone greets us all the time. Often, they try in English, and I reply in Visaya and it makes my day all the time. This week, one man was so excited to meet us that he introduced us to his whole street. On this same street, we started teaching a lesson on the porch and all the children in the street came and stared at us while we sang "Families can be Together Forever"- like this is 25 children. But what a sublime moment, as awkward as it seemed at the time.

2. The Boulevard. It's lined with lamps, with a grass median in the middle of the 2 lanes. We walk up and down it every day. I think we've met all the regulars. Actually, I think my favorite thing about Bayawan is that I've become one of the regulars. We walk and watch the ocean, and the boys playing basketball, shooting into hoops built into the trees, and all the boats along the drive.

3. The animals! There are a million cute cats and puppies, and these confused birds that circle in a certain area. And yesterday, we saw the biggest pig I've ever seen. Baboy- that's a great word for pig. 

4. Our Ceres bus. We take an hour bus ride to Siaton every Monday for District meeting, and we had to go to Dumaguete (2.5 hours away) twice this week for training and district conference. But the bus is just really cool. I don't quite know how to explain why I like it. I think I like seeing the different towns, and fields, and ocean, and cliffs, all in this time. It's a little bit like the drive from Kaneohe to Laie.

5. GK. Oh, it's a special place. It's a village of cement houses made for the houses that were torn down when the Boulevard was built- one room, with some curtains usually. We spend lots of time there, and all the children love to see us. It's so cool to walk by and see all these lives going on. The drunk old men, the kids playing jump rope, the little saray saray stores, the lights- it's just fun!

6. Rain in Bayawan! Walking the Boulevard in the rain is so fun, and not hot, so that's nice.

7. Of course, the people. It's hard to know what to tell you about them, but they are so incredible. Our youth are so strong, and some of their parents are trying so hard. We have some people who aren't even baptized yet, but they've committed to prepare for the temple. We have the cutest family who has been prepared by God to receive us, and they're reading the Book of Mormon every day. We have some people who don't want to hear us, and it's sad, heart breakingly so.

Language: Sister Yanga is native Tagalog, and she also understands Ilocano. In our apartment, we usually still speak English, but we're transitioning to Visaya- English is a second mission language, so for our studies, we're supposed to use English. We also have to understand some Ilongo because we're very close to Bacolod, and many people here speak Ilongo natively. Outside of our apartment, the goal is to speak only Visaya, or at least try in Visaya first. Thank you for your prayers. I do feel like I'm understanding a lot more- I'm rarely completely lost anymore, and I can say things that come to my heart, not just limiting to the things I think I can say. It's still frustrating, and I have to continue to have faith everyday, but it comes.

So kana ra for this week! Times up. I got Dear Elders this week, I think I probably broke a record for my district, so thank you for the updates of my cousins, and thank you to Olivia for her letters. Thank you also to Aunt Carrie for the pens- what a wonderful gift- they've already been put to good use. I love you all more than I can express now! 

Sister Tueller

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pronouns, Payong, Pot-Pot‏

Dear family and friends,
I hope life continues to treat you well. It'll be an exciting upcoming week here on Negros with district conference and some additional training for us. We've had a great week, with people actually wanting to read the Book of Mormon- this is really rare in a non-reading culture, or actually a non-written language. 
Here's a picture of my new cute umbrella (payong), plus Cristina our recent convert who worked with us. And we found a cool family in the back roads of the rice fields who wanted us to teach them. 

Last week, I forgot to tell you about typical transportation here in Bayawan. First, there are pot-pots everywhere, which are bikes with a side car for two. But we can't ride those, because we're three of us. There are also a million scooters- and somehow they fit 5 people on all of them. Mostly, we walk here, but if we're going far away, we take a tricycle. This is a scooter/motorcycle with side car, and somehow, we fit 12 people on to it. I don't understand the physics of it, but it's fun. And us dako Americans are always amusing to the tiny Filipinos.

And there's me with a caribou, really close. Exciting moment! 

One funny moment of the week: We have this investigator who isn't progressing at all, she sort of just listens because her husband wants her to get baptized, and she'll text or try to watch TV during our lesson- so we had to give her some ultimatums. But before that, we asked her how she felt about the blessings in her life. She looks at us with the sassiest face and in this dead pan voice says "malipayon" which means happy. I wanted to crack up, but I couldn't- it was just so funny. Really, malipayon? But that's what the gospel's supposed to bring, and it does if we follow it! And that's what we're really seeing in our investigators who are trying and progressing and who want to learn! Malipayon gyud!

It's been a while since I've sent you a linguistic spiritual insight and I've had one bouncing around my head. This is certainly a way that I understand things. As a non-fluent speaker of this language, or at least some days I can call myself a speaker, I have to pay so much attention to pronouns. (This is compounded by the fact that Visaya has 4 different forms of each pronoun, and 3 are interchangeable, but one can't be switched for the others.) There are pronouns that I'm not used to, like the we (inclusive) vs. we (exclusive)- I'm pretty sure that I constantly tell people that we, the three missionaries, can be saved, but exclude them, or that we (all of us there in the lesson) went grocery shopping yesterday. But I'm getting better at it. In noticing pronouns more, I've seen this also in the scriptures and in my journaling. (especially the possessives because these are the same as normal pronouns in Visaya) God will be our God, if we will have him. He is my Savior. At the last day, we will be His. I think that's really our journey here- making Him my God, and becoming His. And then, we will know him, because we are his. 

I'm so grateful that you are all mine. That I get to claim you as my family and friends. Thank you for your prayers for us and for me. I can't thank you enough for that. 

I love you all! 
Sister Tueller

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mga Gwapo!

Dear family,

I thought I'd tell you about some of the more mundane typical moments of my week, and then you can know what I'm doing lots of the time. But if you have any requests for information, just let me know!

I got mail this week Thursday- your Dear Elders, so that might give you an idea of how long it takes.  We get mail when our Zone Leaders or district leaders go to Cebu to the mission home, so that's maybe every 3 weeks, or month or something. And I love letters! We had a Zone training meeting, so we were with our Zone on Thursday, learning all about accountability for every single action on our mission. That's the kind of missionary I want to become. We have district meeting every Monday in Siaton, which is an hour away on the bus. We ride this bus and they play the weirdest American music, and we're a real sight- all 5 of us missionaries from Bayawan (had I told you that we have elders in Bayawan as well? If not, we do! It's cool to get to work with them, and we never have to give up investigators.) Our district is actually the entire newly formed Bayawan Zone, so we always have our Zone Leaders and District Leaders with us. I'm always excited to learn from these other wonderful missionaries.

I keep forgetting to tell you about laba, and that's  mundane and constant, so here goes! We get to wash all our clothes by hand in buckets. We sit on our back porch and wash and rinse and wring things out and hang things to dry and just hope that it doesn't rain. It's a new experience, and hopefully it stays new and fun and not tedious. 

Inevitably, it always does rain. I broke my first umbrella due to the winds here. Bagiuo was one of the first words I learned here- it's a typhoon, but mostly, even though it's technically a hurricane, we just call it rain. It'll be super hot, like 5 times Laie in August for two hours and then it will pour for hours on end, and then be a little chilly for an hour, and then back to normal, like 3 times Laie in August, until it builds up again. As a missionary, I love the rain- it's cooler, and we're walking anyway, and my shoes are wet anyway, so rain is good. It's not as great when the rain starts coming sideways and we still have to go to PEC, and I'm entirely soaked, but that's life in the Philippines

I hope I haven't sent this picture before- but this is definitely typical. This is Christina's house, a recent convert, with a younger sister who's a member. She's referred her whole block- that's everyone in the picture, and we're teaching 3 of them seriously, (a few of these are inactive members, so that was cool too). This means that we're in her house or her neighbors' houses very often. So this house is very much a part of missionary work here in Bayawan. We ate dinner here the other night- her mom loves the Spirit that we bring as missionaries, and promises that she'll never get baptized, but we're working on it. When we came it, we helped them tear some leaves, I thought for medicine or decoration or something, but they boiled them with some lentils, and then we ate that, with mais rice- it's like rice, but actually made of corn. This is what everyone eats here- enough that it's called Vinisayan utok. So leaves for dinner!

More typical: the scriptures are opened to me. It's crazy. I've been working on memorizing some scriptures, and those are always a verse that I need in the lesson. Or I'll open my scriptures, and the verse is right there that I'm supposed to share. And there's so much more to learn! I've been reading about Ammon and Aaron and their missionary journeys and I'm so inspired to be able to rejoice in the Lord like they can. 

We meet wonderful loving Filipino people. That's every day here, and I love it.

Visaya is hard every day. But I think I'm getting better, and even when it's not fun, it's functional. I guess I just have to be patient, and it'll come, really slowly. 

Let's see: funniest moment from this week- we're teaching a less active family, with a maybe 70 year old grandpa. Before we even say the prayer, he's asking which chapter, even though he never reads the Book of Mormon. Then, he starts talking about the resurrection in the middle of our lesson about repentance, and tells us all kinds of crazy thoughts- like the Spirit world is 2500 square kilometers- who knew? We were all just trying not to laugh, and then he said "You know why people can't stand in Christ's prescence? It's because he's just too handsome." I tried really hard to not laugh at that one, but I was definitely grinning. 

Mga gwapa is also what we're called in one neighborhood- but don't worry, we tell them all that we're all beautiful children of God.

In the mornings, we get up, and exercise (Gracie, I'm putting your little paper to good use), and eat breakfast- usually rice, but sometimes oatmeal, and personal study, and our two hour companion study because we're training, and then language study- which I need so much, and lunch- usually rice, but sometimes other things- and then we work! And visit our investigators and less active families and talk to everyone and try to find people who want to know more about Jesus Christ. That's really every missionary's experience, but that's what I do every day, so you all get to know now. I'm out here, being a missionary, so I do what missionaries do. I'm being Christ's representative for these people, and I'm working everyday to do the things he'd do for them. Mostly, I have a message that makes me really happy, and it's the way to salvation, and I want to share it with people and invite them to make the changes in their life that allow them to live with their Father. When it's hard or humid or I feel inadequate, that's what I need to remember, that it's not about me at all. I get to disappear in this work, and let it be about those people, and our God. He is my God. He's my Father, and as he empowers me, I can claim him more and more as mine. 

Thank you so much for your support! It's such an incredible strength to me every day. I'm so grateful for the blessing of a wonderful family and inspiring friends. To all of you, have a great week!

Sister Tueller

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Miracles dyud!

So family, miracles are real. That's something I keep learning, but the Lord keeps teaching me. I can't even pull them all together, but I'll try to encompass one day for you.

On Thursday, we got to have zone interviews- and I'm so grateful for President Schmutz, and I got some really cool personal revelation to apply in my studies. We also had a workshop about "Becoming the missionary you want to be"- so that one's kind of self explanatory, and I felt such joy- I can't explain how the Spirit works, but I know that it's awesome, and it's desirable about anything else (3 Nephi 19:9- think about that one, what do we want the most? What do we ask Christ for?)

But as we came back, no one was there at our appointments, no one wanted to listen, and it was kind of a hard day- it's a mark of how wonderful Filipinos are that this is the only day I haven't taught a lesson, and how the Lord knew how hard rejection is for me. I'm definitely still learning rejection every day, but he blesses me.

Don't worry though, the Lord was just making sure that we're still diligent missionaries. Friday was amazing. We planned our week, and the Spirit was really showing us what to do and where to go. And then we went out. We taught Christina, a recent convert and her friends- one who had been really quiet in previous lessons, but she shared her testimony and her desire to learn more- so cool! 

Next we taught a 12 year old girl who has a broken family but she was baptized a year ago, but she just needs the support to continue in the gospel. I felt like I could do something really useful as we got to help her (Later, connected miracle- we were street contacting, and I really felt like we needed to talk to this group of people- Turns out, her mom was standing there, her mom who had been living in a city 2 hours away, but who came home 2 hours after we left Casey's house. I just love this gospel, and when I get to see his hand)

Next, we contacted the investigator who listened to us last week, from the lesson with the youth member. But first, it was raining and she wasn't home, so her neighbors invited us in- lovely people. And three days before, the father had become paralyzed from the waist down from meningitis or something. We got to be an answer to prayer, and to pray with them for strength. 

And then Ay-Ay. This family, this investigator is so special. Pray for Ay-Ay and Don-Don Pabol. They read the Bible as a family, and pray together, and have sincere, seeking questions, and they're actually married, and they support each other in their jobs, and Ay-ay decided to stay home to help David John, their 3 year old learn to be a good boy. Don was taught before by some missionaries, but his schedule didn't work, but I have so much hope for them because they want to know! I can't believe the Lord is trusting us to help them, but I just want to do my best.

Here's a picture of me on a basketball court with a cow in the Philippines. I think that might be caption enough. I thought it might make you laugh.

The other picture is from our sacrament meeting out in Basay- there's a second sacrament meeting because it's too far away. So we had 4 members and 4 investigators, plus the missionaries and the branch presidency. Usually, the elders in our branch go out to Basay, but our Branch President said they needed us this week. And we were! I got to lead the music, and see God's love for these faithful saints, and as they bore their testimonies in this little nipa hut without walls, the Spirit couldn't fit. After sacrament, we taught one of the investigators, and she really got it. She felt God's love, God's plan for her family, and we all cried a little. It's those moments when the Visaya comes, or probably really, it just doesn't matter. 

I love every one of you! Good luck this week in everything! Tell me all about anything fun, or funny, or sad, or inspiring, or just plain good.

Ampin mo,
Sister Tueller