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


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