Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Come, Become

Dear Family,
Merry Christmas, Malipayong Pasko, and Mele Kelikimaka!

This past week, we’ve been really trying to help all these less actives again, and so we’ve taught so many lessons about Christmas and coming to Jesus Christ. I think I shared a different scripture in each of these lessons- a story of Jesus Christ, or people who followed him, or his words to a prophet, but each one came back to the same thing. Repent and come to him. For some, we needed to remind them to be baptized, to walk in his way. Christ asks us to come.

On Christmas, after skyping (!- I love you all), we went to the tiny hospital in Sibonga- I didn’t even know it was a hospital until I looked at the Elders’ area map. We brought some little treats and pictures of Christ to give to people and visit. There were only two wards, with two patients each, so we didn't change the world. But the little boy with dehydration, the young mother whose eyes couldn't leave her son, the two families with sick grandmothers- I think maybe, we changed their worlds a little. One of the families asked if we would pray with them. I don't think I've ever seen someone so clearly in the way that the Lord sees them as I could see that grandmother. She was beautiful and so sick and her family and Heavenly Father love her, and I could say it all in Visaya. He loves us all so much. We went to the less actives' homes- we had Brother Ordeniza join even though he hadn't faced missionaries in over a year. These miracles come, and we can't really make them happen, but they come anyway. We also gathered up on top of the mountain with two of our returning less active families, and half the branch. The simple table was over flowing with food and all of us were well fed in every way this Christmas.

Earlier this week, we stopped by a less actives house- Sister Marlo Cabije. I've stopped by every week during my time in Sibonga and taught once because she avoids us so much. She used to be one of the most active members of this branch, so we were always so sad. This week, we had to talk to her, and work for it, but she allowed us to teach, and as we spoke, she finally opened up about her weaknesses, the trials and temptations in her life, the times she's fallen, and her lack of hope. I'm awed by the calling of a missionary. I'm 19 and I really cannot empathize with Sister Marlo, mother of 10 children, living on top of a mountain, surrounded by persecution. But I represent the Savior Jesus Christ and he lived and died and lives for times such as those, for people like Marlo Cabije. She took the first step that day and prayed to her Father. I couldn't help but crying as the Spirit told the three of us how much He loves her. 

That's Christmas for me- that we can be clean, no matter what we did, that we can pray to Him, that we can come to him, and that through Him, we are changed. We become. My hope is that this Christmas, we all became a little more, and that we resolve to do the same next year. Come to Him, become more- become sanctified, become clean, become whole.

I know with all my heart that God loves us. That's the message we carry, that's the message we live. Just as in 3 Nephi 1, we must lift up our heads and rejoice in Christ.
I love you all!

Sister Josie Tueller 

Christmas presents to the Ordeniza family

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Devotional/Party Pictures

Sakit ang pag ngisi!

Here’s a Visaya phrase that I’ve heard and used quite a few times this week: “ The smiling hurts!” It’s been such a good week, with lots of reasons to smile. Also, lots has happened.

First, on Thursday night, we got a call from our Zone Leaders to pack our things and move houses. The Elders in our area have been moved to different areas, and so Sister Kalonihea and I are covering the whole Sibonga area. We also had to move into their house and do lots of cleaning there- that took up our whole Friday. It was good to do something that gets done- I can bleach a bathroom, sweep a floor. We also had a really cool miracle that day. We had to go to CarCar to get cleaning supplies, and we really just wanted to be doing missionary work. As we were waiting to sakay back to our new house, a white man and a Filipino family was waiting there as well- this is fairly typical. The man kept looking over at us, but it’s rare enough to see an American girl- I’m used to the stares. However, he then came and said “Missionaries!” We talked a little- he’s a German member from England, he and his Filipina wife were baptized four years ago there. After three sentences though, he says “We have a referral for you.” They’d been looking for missionaries, trying to send referrals to go visit his wife Jennifer’s family. It’s not even our area- but it showed me that the Lord puts us in the right place, even if it’s just at the grocery store to buy a mop. And they went to church in CarCar on Sunday! Smiles all around!

Thank you so much for your prayers for our people here. Guess who came to church? Brother Redoblado! We’ve been really looking for priesthood to come back to church and he came and I almost couldn’t believe it but I was so excited. We also had another less active family return: the Caballes family.

On Saturday night, the second counselor texted us and invited us to come to the Family Home evening with the Caballes family in a reactivation effort that the branch had planned all by themselves! The Caballes family was once very active, and we’ve visited them a couple of times, and felt very hopeful about them keeping their commitments to come to church, but they haven’t come while we’ve been here. We had to hike up to their house- it's almost on the top of the mountain, but they were all there! We had a family home evening, and even got the Lolo and Lola to join. For our activity, we played a game where you have to say fruit names without showing your teeth, or smiling or laughing- so you take your lips and put them over your teeth, but you can't help but laugh. Try it some time. So my face hurt a lot. But then, they prayed together as a family, and I had to smile more. They are going to be such great leaders for this branch.

Other blessings: we didn't know our area at all- but we had some of the YSA women work with us. Liezel is 23 and we've been helping her with her mission papers- she's a light. Maricar is 18, a senior in high school, and she and her grandma are the only active members- but she's so good! We had so much fun, and we got to meet so many less actives.

On Monday, I smiled all day long- not that I don't everyday, but it was that beautiful kind of hurting smiling. We had our Christmas devotional and talent show in the city with 3 other zones. The talent show in the afternoon was so fun, and funny and it was amazing to see talents that you never would have expected- a small quiet Elder who sounds exactly like Frank Sinatra, a whole zone coming together and rapping- all sorts of fun. But the morning was even better. For an hour, we simply heard the words of the scriptures, from the Book of Mormon and the Bible- about Christ and we sang the songs of Christmas. 

I know that he lives. I know he supports us through anything. I testify that he is the Savior of the world and through him we can become so much more. This Christmas, I get to dedicate completely to my Redeemer- but for the rest of my life, and for all of us, our whole lives must become consecrated to him. In every action, we must remember him. I love you all so much! I know God has a plan and mostly, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves us all even more than we can understand.

Malipayong Pasko! And lots of love,
Sister Tueller

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Maayong Hapon!

Dear Everyone,

First! News: I have a new companion here in Sibonga. Sister Kalonihea is Tongan, but she’s from New Zealand. She’s a transfer behind me, and she’s from Tacloban mission, transferred to Cebu mission for now. She’s ready for anything and so happy to serve the Lord- it’s contagious. Sibonga needs her creativity and fun spirit! It’s always an adventure in Sibonga, but I’m feeling so hopeful about what will happen for the rest of this transfer.

Sister Harris and I were in the city at the Temple Complex on Friday and there were so many members there from so far away- from Ilo Ilo, and from Tacloban and from Mindanao. I got to talk to so many of them, and every single one of them was so happy to talk to a missionary. It was an incredible time where I got to see a bigger glimpse of how much I’ve become Sister Tueller- how much I’ve become who they see- that loving, caring sister who desires to serve the Lord.  And now I keep becoming more!!

Highlights of this week, because we’re low on time:

District CSP- We hiked into the bukid, and kept walking and walking forever- or one hour! Sister K really is up for anything- so much fun. And then the people weren’t even there! But they showed up eventually, and we cut down trees and pulled weeds, and maybe next month, we’ll go plant banana trees in the place we cleared. Even though it was far, and maybe not the best use of time, doing something useful for someone- tangibly- was so great. And we go anywhere, do anything with faith.

-JoAnn- she’s someone we walked by last week, and the Spirit told me that we had to talk to her, so I turned around and we talked to her and taught her a lesson- and she’s looking for something more. Her brother apparently served an LDS mission, but she’s lost track of him. She and her husband and their four kids are incredibly poor, and last time, we prayed that JoAnn would be able to find a job. This  week, when we went back to teach them- she’d just arrived home from work, selling things by the school. She said she’d worried that we wouldn’t come back, especially when she couldn’t come to church because her children had fevers. But she prayed that she’d be able to come this week-and I know Heavenly Father wants to answer that prayer.

-Brother Redoblado, a less active. Oh my goodness. We’ve gone by his house almost every Sunday for the past transfer because he lives on the way to one of our investigator/recent convert/Less active families, but he’s never been there. Sometimes, his family would be there, drinking, and so we didn’t feel super optimistic about him. But
this Sunday, the drinking family told us to go up to his house on the ledge. So we climbed some  pretty steep parts, and got to his house. He was smoking when we came, but put it out on the tree, pulled up a bench, and told us thank you, so many times for coming- he told us about the happiness and unity that he’d felt in his family when the missionaries visited years ago. He committed in his prayer to come to church- so pray for him please!

Also, I have been a missionary for more than 6 months now. That’s strange- and now everyday of my mission is the last “Dec  12” as a missionary. It’s gone way too fast, so it’s a good thing I have another year left!

I’ve learned how to rely on my Savior. My God has a plan for me, and he helps me fulfill it. This missionary work is so important right now. Everyone needs to be given a chance to accept or reject this gospel- and so many people need it now. That’s the call of the prophet now. So all of you, find a small way to share the gospel. If you pray and ask for a way, God will give one to you! Promise, for sure. I know this church is true. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that  he stands beside us. I know that families can be together forever- and I love you all!

Nasayud pod ko nga ang Dios naa siyay plano sa atong tanan- usa ka plano sa gugma ug kalinaw ug hingpit nga kalipay.

Much love,
Sister Tueller

Monday, December 9, 2013

Standing Up from our Rocks

Dear family, friends, everyone,

Merry Christmas! I'm finally allowing myself to go with it- we've been hearing Christmas songs since September 1. Not even joking. But now Christmas is in full swing. One of our neighbors has their entire house covered in Christmas lights, and they blast Christmas music at all hours. Last week, they were playing that one that Dad likes- with the steel drum: Trumpets sound, angels sing, a new king born today. But men will live forever more, because of Christmas day. I thought I was the only one who'd ever heard that song, but the party house in Sibonga, Center Poblacion has also got it. We also bought a little mini fake Christmas tree, so our Filipino house has some Christmas flavor.

It's been a week. I told you about how we had those days of lots of dropped appointments. That didn't stop this week. We're not really sure what happened, but our investigators and less actives keep dropping us. A lot of them are these women who were baptized when they were 16, and then got married, and their husbands don't approve and so to protect their children, they can't come to church. I can't do much about this. 

But my revelation for Sibonga is that we need to see the miracles everyday. They are there every single day, probably more because I've needed them more this week. Often, these are miracles for the day. Like Carrie Davis. When Sister Harris and Sister Prasad our Sister training leader went back on Friday, she hid, and then proceeded to slam the door in their face. The week's been going a little bit like that. But we keep going. The Lord keeps teaching me about endurance. That's the point. 

Some miracles: - We had a really successful missionary fireside. Quite a few members came, and these cute old ladies cooked for us, and we almost had a literal fireside (we were cooking at the firepit in the back of the church) and it started an hour late, but it was so good. I love these people so much, even when they don't do all the things I'd like them too. Sister Reyes started giving an impromptu speech when I asked her to pray, and when I reminded her to bless the food- she apparently decided that she needed to bless over it. She just marches to her own beat :)

-Splits with Sister Prasad: She was so helpful. Also, we found some more problems, but that's okay. We're working on them. Apparently, some of the things with our house- like our "roughing it" bathroom are cause for concern. I'm a little naive about these things, but we're getting things fixed.

-Sunday: We had an investigator at church! Actually 6! But one says she'll never join the church, and one lives an hour away and we're not allowed to go to her area, and one I didn't even know, but then 3 of them are so special. Brenda and Reina. I hope you've heard about them. We found them just walking by, but their Dad is a member, and they went to church as kids. We've been working so hard to get them to come, and they didn't last week and I'd almost given up on them. But with 10 minutes left in sacrament meeting, these three young adult girls walk in. I couldn't stop beaming. Even though all our members were giving strange testimonies. Brenda wants to progress. I'm so happy.

- Monday- this was a hard day. I'm learning to not take too much on to myself. And sometimes, I'm really self critical. We had to take some moments and just breathe. But in the evening, it was so wonderful. We taught the Gonzales family at a FHE, and managed to get their very shy 20- year son participating and we're so grateful. We also played a game called Peter, James, John- it's like zoo, or consecration, or those games. You all might know that I'm really bad at them. But I was somehow really good. Small tiny blessing. And it's really funny when you're bad. 

-Yesterday. What a day. In the middle of the day, after 5 dropped appointments, Sister Harris sat down on a rock, I sat next to her and she cried and I tried not to. This thing isn't easy. But I'm so grateful. I'm given so much strength. We saw a man, and the spirit told me that it was Brother Benjamin Fernandez, who we'd been looking for since our first week. He ran away, but it's definitely him. We'll go back :) Family, it wasn't easy to get off our rock (even though it smelled bad and a chicken tried to peck me). But when we can get off our rocks, that's when miracles comes. 

We went to another neighborhood, actually, we rode a little scooter up a mountain- the two of us, to Elina Machang's house. She was baptized in the city, and moved here years ago, and we met her at our favorite bake shop. She's incredible. And we can't go to her all the time, but Elina needed us yesterday. And probably more so, I needed Elina.

I know that God loves us and is with us! I love you all so much! He lives and we live because of him. Trust in his plan, and in his trust in you!

Love, daghan, usa ka libo,
Sister Tueller

Nut cups in the Philippines!

Our fireside