Well I hope that everyone had the most amazing Christmas this year. I was of course missing plenty of things about American Christmas, but I also got to have some great experiences. So I'm definitely not disappointed. First of all, we had a baptism. So it was actually a White Christmas here in the Philippines! At least for us. Kenneth Plaida was baptized on Christmas day and confirmed on the 26th. He is amazing. He is so solid and has such a strong testimony. He's one of those "still waters run deep" kind of guy, but they definitely run deep. It was a great morning. He will make such amazing contributions to the church and hopefully in a year, he will serve a mission. He will make an awesome missionary. Did I mention that in 4 weeks of teaching he's already mostly through Alma? Yeah, he's a rockstar.

So Christmas day here was kind of crazy. We had present time in the morning and a big breakfast of french toast and hot dogs (yeah, there's no sausage here... we make do) and I made homemade syrup. It was delicious. Then, after the baptism we came back to the house so Sister Elwood could call her family. Then we went to one appointment and then went to a Christmas Celebration in the plaza sponsored by the other ward. It was awesome. There were a ton of people. They showed the "Joy to the World" video and The Restoration. We got up and bore our testimonies of Joseph Smith and then sang them a song. It was pretty awesome. We had a great time. Then some guy let off a firecracker right by our feet and we decided it was time to leave... Satan....

So this week was a great one too. On Tuesday we went to Bacolod to participate in a Christmas concert and presentation for investigators and recent converts. It was pretty cool, there was a missionary choir and we sounded pretty awesome. The spirit was strong and it was a great experience. It gone done late so we stayed in the mission home that night (which I LOVE doing because I get to spend time with President) and then the next morning we got driven the 2.5 hours to our Christmas Conference. I don't know if you realize the blessing of having President drive us... we didn't have to take a bus. It was a huge day. Christmas Conference was awesome. Inspiring and awesomely fun. Our district was in charge of putting on a little presentation (it was meant to be fun). So I re-wrote "Twas the Night Before Christmas" about missionaries in the Philippines. It was pretty funny. We presented it like a Family Home Evening with one elder and I as the parents and our district mates as the kids. It was hilarious. Everyone enjoyed it and it was a great time. So we definitely got plenty of opportunities to celebrate Christmas and it was great.

So this week was really good too because, and maybe this is because it's the end of the year, I did some self-evaluation and found some good places where I need improvement. I never thought I would say this, but I love those opportunities. They make me more effective as a teacher and a better missionary and so I love them. Don't get me wrong, they are incredibly difficult, but much more rewarding than they are hard. So pray that I will be able to achieve my goals and become an even better missionary. I need all the help I can get! :)

So being that it's almost the new year, I have a challenge for everyone. Get yourselves immersed in missionary work. Some of you might already be doing that, then keep at it. As a missionary, and especially with the focus we have here in this mission, I have really been able to see how simple efforts can make a huge difference. Maybe you won't find 12 people for the missionaries to teach, that's okay. Work at strengthening your ward. You may not realize it, but that is an INCREDIBLE form of missionary work. It makes it easier for missionaries to get people to church, and keep them there, if the ward functions properly and if ward members fellowship! Volunteer to go out with the missionaries, even if it's just for one teaching in a week, or even a month. They need your help SOOOO much. I'll let you all decided how best you can help, but I'm a missionary and so I can't do anything without wanting to commit people. So I'm going to ask you all, "Will you find ways of doing missionary work, no matter how large or small, to help further the Lord's work?" It will bless your lives, the lives of others, and the missionary efforts going on worldwide. I know it. I see it!

Okay, I love you all and hope you are all having the best holiday season. Keep in touch if you have the time, I love getting mail! :)

Lots of love!

Sister Jackson
Well Family and Friends, Merry Christmas or Maayong Paskwa here in Negros Occidental,

Well I hope that everyone is having a great and wonderful Christmas season. I'm sure that I can imagine pretty well what everyone is doing... snow... christmas music... lights.... good food... (sigh). But it's totally great because I love being here and Christmas is still in the air. Christmas starts in about September here in the Philippines so I have been hearing Christmas music (although it sounds awful) for months! And there are lights and decorations up all over the place. Everywhere you go people call out Merry Christmas. Every night there are homeless, caroling children that break your heart. They come for money. They sound atrocious, but they are totally cute. All in all, there is a lot of the same "spirit" here, just delivered in different packages. But this Christmas will be especially awesome because we have a baptism on Christmas day! Talk about an awesome gift... for us and for him! He's an investigator that obviously was mostly taught before I got here, but I have been there for a few lessons and he is AMAZING. He has already ready through almost all of Alma... seriously... it's incredible. He is so solid and is going to do great things for the church here. He's also 19, which means hopefully a mission in a year! There is definitely a different teaching pool here than I had in La Carlota. Our investigators are all pretty solid. They just get it, ya know? We don't have to do to much to convince them of the truth of the gospel and most of them respond to commitments. I feel like I'm on a whole new mission here in Victorias.

So yesterday, Sunday here, was awesome. I had been sick for a couple of days, but still got to church because I had to speak and we had to sing. Yeah, it was the Sister Jackson and Sister Elwood show yesterday. But we had one of our investigators there that we did not expect to come and she came without having been taught the day before and without a reminder. WHAT A HUGE BLESSING! I'm sure only some of you can appreciate what this means to us, but it was awesome. She came to the ward Christmas party the night before too, with her whole family. Seriously, I feel like I'm living some other missionary's life here. It's so different. I'm also learning to have more faith here. My companion has INCREDIBLE faith. She is such a great example to me and it encourages me to exercise mine better. And when we do, miracles happen. This week we did a lot of walking and teaching and we found 12 new investigators. 12!!! I didn't even know that was possible after my last area. But it is and we were so blessed. The Lord literally put people in our way, people we never expected and it was awesome. My gratitude is increasing exponentially in this new area.

So I can just stay again how much I love this place and the people in it. I love everyone, but I especially love the kids and the old people. I've always loved those people the most, but here, I love them even more. The children just immediately become attached to you (mostly because we are huge white american women) and they always want to be around you. The old people are SOOOOO nice and so cute and I just want to hug them all the time. They grab onto your hand when you shake it and they just hold on and stare into your eyes and you just fall in love with them. I love old people!

It's definitely different here. When you transfer areas you kind of feel like you've changed missions, especially here. The cultures are mostly the same, but there are some important differences. It's hard to explain, but it's definitely different. But I'm loving my experiences here. The language of course continues to be a challenge, but I am being tested in new ways and I am learning a lot because of it. The more I'm forced to use, the better I get. I have greater confidence in just talking to people on the streets, on tricycles, it's one of my favorite things. And then when they see you being nice to their children, you've basically just got yourself right into their homes. Of course I still hear "Gwapa!" everywhere I go. I'll admit, when I come home and that doesn't happen I will probably be disappointed! But now, rather than feel uncomfortable I give them all a huge smile and happily yell, "Maayong Hapon! (good afternoon). When they hear that I actually can speak their language, they usually stare at me, open mouthed, disbelieving, and I just laugh. I have a lot of fun here amidst all the work.

So it's starting to get hotter here. Depending on who you talk to, the rainy seasons goes anywhere from 5-9 months. It's ridiculous. But summer here is about April to June... who knows. Apparently it gets hotter... yay! You learn to love it. It's going to be weird not sweating all the time. I actually get cold here, though, believe it or not. At night I basically freeze and then sweat all day long. It's awesome!

Well, some of you I will get to talk to for Christmas and for the rest of you, I hope you all have the best week ever and find lots of opportunities to serve others and help them to remember the reason for the season. I love you all and miss you! Merry Christmas!!!


Sister Jackson
Greetings from the Philippines!

Okay, so this is the slogan of my new area! So I am now in Victorias. For those of you who aren't following my transferring diligently with a map (although I can't imagine that's any of you) this is North of Bacolod City and as you can probably tell from their slogan, they are all about sugar. It is EVERYWHERE! This also happens to be the favorite area of my trainer, Sister Stadler, and so I'm even more excited to be here. I am serving in her ward. It's crazy! We live in what is known as the "mansion" here in the mission. our house really is ridiculous. It's 2 stories and huge and really nice. But I do get to shower with a bucket now, so I feel like a real Filipina. Haha. The area here is more of a city too. La Carlota was pretty big, but this is bigger, or at least it seems bigger and much busier. So I am in a new area, district, and zone. It feels weird, but I'm also excited to be here. The area is a lot more fruitful which is definitely good for the morale. I got here and there is already a baptism scheduled for Christmas day! It will be a great Christmas. There aren't a TON of investigators here, but the ones we have are AWESOME. Seriously, I couldn't believe it when we went to teach them. It was so different. But I am way grateful to be here.

So obviously, if I'm in a new area, I must have a new companion, and I do! Her name is Sister Elwood. She is from Utah, but she also grew up in Washington! She's from Spokane, but I don't hold that against her... :) She's great. She's been in this area for 2 transfers so she knows what she is doing. I have a lot to learn from her. She's a great teacher, she asks great questions and she is TOTALLY invested in the work. I am really grateful for that. I think that we are going to do great things here and I am excited for it.

On Sunday we went to church, obviously, and I got to meet the ward. Yeah, I'm actually in a ward. With a bishop. It feels weird after being in a branch. The ward is great, the bishop is AMAZING. He just has this spirit about him and it's contagious. He is all about the work and he works hard. He actually looks like a Filipino version of that guy who plays Perseus in the OLD Clash of the Titans. I can't remember his name, but Grandma, you will. He even sounds like him. Weird. But awesome! I got to bear my testimony. No talk, thank goodness because of the Primary Program. But next week we are speaking and singing. That should be fun!

I hope that you all enjoyed the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. We got to see it a week later and it was great. It was amazing. I love the prophet and his counselors. You get starved for hearing their voices out here. I hope that the Christmas season is a happy one for everyone. I know that none of you will be so lucky as to be in the Philippines teaching the gospel, but try to have a good Christmas anyway... :) Seriously, I couldn't imagine a better place to spend the Holidays. Of course I will miss you all, but this work is so amazing, I don't ever want to come back. Okay, that's not exactly true, but I do love it here. This week I just got overwhelmed with how much I love these people. They are incredible and so loving.

Well, I think that's it for me this week. I love and miss you all!

Sister Jackson
Well family, unfortunately I am not bearing the best news today. Of course for you all it won't seem quite so tragic, but my whole life is about my mission, so you know... Well, today were transfer announcements and I am transferring. We were so sure that my companion was going to be the one to go, usually President keeps people in their first area for awhile, but apparently the Lord has other plans for me and so I will be leaving La Carlota. I would be lying if I said I wasn't bummed. I'm actually kind of devastated. I love the people here and I feel like this place is my home. It's just hard because this is my first area and I feel very attached here. But I have faith in the inspiration of my mission president and so I will go where I am assigned to go. I still don't know where, I won't find out until Friday at the transfer meeting, but there are a lot of possibilities. Please pray for me that I will be able to adjust to a new place and to a new companion...

This last week was pretty uneventful, sickness again kept us both from working too much this week. It was pretty frustrating, but we were still able to witness some tender mercies. With our one solid investigator, Ricky, we had to push back his baptism a week because we didn't feel like he was really prepared. He is doing well and following all commitments but he doesn't really understand everything fully that we have been trying to teach him, so we decided to make it more simple and it turned out great. We had to go over some things again, but we both felt better about it. I am super bummed that I will miss his baptism, but I know he will make a great addition to the branch here.

I can't believe that it is December!!!! It never ceases to amaze me how fast the time flies here. In one week I will hit my 5 month mark as a missionary and 3 months in the field. It is so crazy! I can't believe it. Honestly, I don't feel like it would ever be possible to do enough in such a short amount of time, but I am going to try my hardest. I am still progressing with the language. My companion tells me things all the time that I am doing amazingly and that she can't believe how fast I get it, but you all know me, I am a perfectionist and I never think it's good enough. I am trying to practice more confidence in my abilities. I would always appreciate your prayers, especially for the language.

So I thought I would just share a bit about what I have been studying lately on the off-chance that maybe one of you is looking for a new study topic and you would like to join me. I've been studying about discipleship in the scriptures. As a missionary I am a representative of Jesus Christ everyday, it's my entire purpose and so I decided to start researching everything I could about it. I went through the scriptures and found all the places that the Savior has said that if you do something specific you are one of his disciples. It's amazing how many things there are. Now I am researching individually each thing and how I can learn more. I cannot tell you, it's probably the best experience I have ever had with the scriptures. There is so much to learn about being a disciple of Jesus Christ and it is something we should all attain to. I will share one of my recent insights.

I was reading about what it means to be a light to the world. It says that repeatedly in the scriptures and originates when Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount. So I started looking into what it means to be a light to the world and found a lot of scriptures and alluded to being a good example and helping to lead people to Christ. I felt inspired to look up the parable of the 10 virgins. I have always loved this story and was always inspired by the need to be prepared and focused on what is important, but this time I found a different application. It wasn't just about the fact that the 5 foolish virgins were excluded from the marriage festivities, although that was incredibly tragic. But they also gave up their opportunity for discipleship. In Jesus the Christ, Talmage talks about how with marriage customs, it was necessary for the people in the wedding party to carry a lot of torches and lamps (it occurred at night) so that they could light the way and other people would see and know when they should come to meet the bridegroom and be admitted into the party. The lights of the 5 wise virgins provided them admittance but it also was a fulfilling of their responsibility to light the way for others so that they would be able to say that the bridegroom knew them. Basically if we are unwilling or unprepared to be disciples than the Savior will not know us because we did nothing to prove ourselves to him. This project has been wonderfully insightful and I have found so much application. If you're interested I highly encourage the project.

Well, that's all for this week. Next week I will be emailing you from a new area. I could use all of your prayers this week! Love you all and miss you!

Sister Jackson