baptism.... again!

So it was a great week. Of course we had another baptism! This was definitely one of my favorites. Well, I guess they all are, but this was for Johnray. And after all of the stuff we had to go through with him, seeing him in that font was probably the happiest thing in the world. He was SOOO excited and he was so ready. It was a great baptism. We started late, but people were there, we had plenty of priesthood, the spirit was strong, it was great. And then after he went with all the youth and single adults to Cadiz (that's where the stake center is) to practice for the Jubilee which will have in May. It was a great day.

So unfortunately they decided to change some things around so I do not know if I am transferring yet. I'm way bummed because this means that if I am transferring that I will hardly get any time to say goodbye to people before I have to leave. I don't like it. So I'm really hoping that I'm not leaving yet. I have too much to do here and I am not ready to leave these people yet. This place and the people are just too special to me. Seriously, I am amazed every day by our investigators, recent converts. They are all SO solid and even if there aren't a ton, they're all elect. It's awesome.

Well I hate to say this, but I just don't have too much more to write. I know there are things I want to write, but I just can't think and I don't have a lot of time. Sorry everyone. But I'm doing great, I really hope I don't transfer and I am just loving my mission all the time. Hope you're all doing great!

Sister Jackson

So that is the only word that could describe this week. Seriously, for all the rough times we have all the time, there were so many good things that happened this week and they were all such amazing blessings.

Okay, so first of all for a story. Well we had a lesson with John Ray, our 15 year old investigator who is super smart and excited for his baptism. He's started working as a sikad driver and so he wasn't living at home anymore. We didn't know this. When we saw him and flagged him down for a lesson, he looked haggard, sick, and had just lost all of his luster. We sat him down and asked him what was going on. He just started crying. In that moment my heart totally broke. I didn't know what to do. All I wanted to do was grab this kid and hug him until he felt better. That's obviously not allowed, so I just sat there helpless until he calmed down. He told us some of what was going on in his life. It's hard. I won't tell all the details, but it was a lot of what we hear about here in the Philippines, poverty, etc. So we talked things out with him as best as we could, but we still felt pretty helpless over him. We taught him that day about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was supposed to teach about Repentance. Well actually just review, because we had already taught him. But I felt prompted to focus more on the atonement and how it applies for all of our pains and sufferings and hard times as well. The spirit was strong, he cried some more, but I think he could feel the love of Heavenly Father. We left in low spirits because we weren't sure how to help him. I cried the whole ride home because I didn't know what to do. I really love this kid, like more than most of our investigators. There's just something about him, he's like a little brother for me. We contacted his uncle, one of our recent converts to find out what was going on. Eventually some things got worked out and he told us that he was going home. We were very relieved because we knew he needed that support and that without it, we couldn't baptize him. So then we had a couple of rough days with little work. We got punted a ton and we couldn't find him to teach him. Well then we got a text from his uncle, Maimai again who told us that they couldn't find John Ray. He and the bishop had gone out looking for him, but they couldn't find him. Of course I started to panic. We went right to that area and started to look for him. I was so worried. Finally we saw another young ward member who said he had seen him earlier on a particular street. We went to find him. He was there. When he came up to us I let him have it. I'm not kidding. I told that kid how much he had made us all worry, how I felt sick about it, how bishop and his family were worrying. I don't think he realized what he was doing. He clearly felt guilty. We texted Maimai who told us to have him come meet him at the bishop's house later and he would take him home. So I think they had a good chat about coming home when he's supposed to. He was at church on Sunday with both of his uncles and after church he had his baptismal interview. He passed. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Seriously, I had so much anxiety for that kid this last week. But I just kept praying and asking for the Lord's help and he did. He helped us find him, He helped us know what to say, He kept John Ray safe. HUGE answers to prayers this week.

So the rest of the week had its ups and downs. We are struggling to find people, but we do have some quality people that we are focusing on. In fact, I had this amazing experience just last night. We have an investigator who we met in an inspired street contact. I just felt that we really needed to teach this guy. This was when I was with Sis. Elwood. Well we only taught him once, but then we helped him with his house after the flood. We kept trying to teach him, but he was always way busy. Well I felt the spirit telling me to be persistent, so we have been. Well this week we finally got in to teach him twice and yesterday was the biggie. So we had taught him about Joseph Smith before but he was doubtful. He said he couldn't be convinced if there were no witnesses to the vision. Well Sis. Tambolero started teaching him about the Book of Mormon and why we have it, and how we got it. I was supposed to teach about the Holy Ghost. I wasn't sure what I was going to say. I wanted to find a way to address his concern of having a witness without getting into an argument and still teach him the doctrine of the power of the Holy Ghost. So I started out by sharing Moroni's promise (that's usually a pretty powerful conversion tool--knowing the truth of all things is pretty attractive to most people). He seemed interested, but I could still see skepticism behind his eyes. I was worried. He is an incredibly smart man and so I was terrified of saying the wrong thing. I didn't want to get him going. So then it came to me, as it always does, in a way I hadn't thought before. It wasn't me at all, it was totally the spirit. I started telling him how the Holy Ghost is a witness, that is one of His roles. He believes in the Holy Ghost (he's Catholic) so this wasn't a stretch for him. He could believe that, I could see it. Well then I told him that the Holy Ghost was present when Joseph Smith had the vision, that He saw and witnessed everything. He was the sure witness of the first vision. Then I told him that if he would pray and read the Book of Mormon that he would receive that witness as well. I told him how there are now millions of people that have had that witness and can now also bear that witness. I told him that was I was there, thousands of miles from my home, a young person, so that I could bear that testimony. He tried to rebuttal with more skepticism "I'm still not convinced!" So then, with all the energy of my soul (as they say) I committed the heck out of him. I bore testimony of the power of prayer, the Book of Mormon, and the Holy Ghost and then asked him if he would follow the invitation of Moroni and read and pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. He looked at me and quietly said, "okay Sister". He didn't have anything else to say. I could the feel the spirit exploding out my ears and was just so overwhelmed. Then we told him next time we would show him a video about Joseph Smith. He's excited because he said it would be easier for him to understand the story if he could see it. Eureaka!!!! It was awesome.

So we are having really good experiences with most of our investigators and then difficult experiences trying to find other new ones, but that's just how this work goes. And you just have to realize that, deal with, and just keep going forward. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how hard it gets, or frustrating, or exhausting, the Lord ALWAYS provides some experience, no matter how small it may seem, to make all the difficult stuff worth it. It happens EVERY SINGLE TIME! It's such a huge blessing. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing any good here, that I'm not really a good missionary, but then I have these experiences and I realize that the hand of the Lord is in EVERYTHING and it doesn't matter how good I am. If I put in an honest effort, if I stay obedient and keep the Lord first then he takes care of everything. Even if the progress seems slow or almost impossible to see, it's still there. Missionary work really is the greatest work in the world.

So this is our last full week of the transfer. Next Monday we have transfer announcements. I really hope I am not transferring. I am NOT ready to leave Victorias. I love this place. But of course I will go where the Lord wants me to go. There's so much for me to learn that I am really starting to appreciate change no matter how hard it is or how much I hate it sometimes, it pushes me in new directions and I need all the help I can get. Well I love you all and hope you are all doing well. If you have any time, I would love some mail! :)

Sister Jackson

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

I think I'm probably claiming the first time of wishing you all a happy day of love since it's actually V-Day here in the Philippines, but it's still Sunday for all of you! I hope everyone has a great day. Eat some real chocolate for me... there is none here... :(

So it seems that I like celebrating holidays with baptisms! On Saturday Jeannette Demandar was baptized! It was such a great experience. She is definitely one of my all time favorite investigators (I'm probably not supposed to have those... but whatever, I do). She was just one of those that we had to drop for awhile, but when we came back she was SO ready. And now she is a member! She was confirmed on Sunday. She just kept telling me how happy she was and how she felt peaceful. It was so great! Originally we were supposed to have 2 other baptisms as well, but we had to push them back, so it was just her. I was glad for that because I think it made the experience more special for her.

Sunday was just a great day in general. Kenneth, my recent convert from Christmas had been ordained the priesthood, but hadn't been doing anything in sacrament meeting yet. I wasn't sure why, so I asked him about it. He said that he didn't have clothes. Unfortunately that is a real problem here and of course Bishop wants them dressed appropriately to bless the sacrament. Well I tried to find an old shirt from one of the elders, but they had none. So when we were in Bacolod on Wednesday I went and bought him one. And a tie. He was SOOO grateful when I gave it to him. And then there he was on Sunday wearing everything, dress pants, shirt tucked in, belt, a new haircut. And he blessed the sacrament perfectly!!! It was so awesome! Seriously, I couldn't stop smiling all day! He is such an amazing kid. He probably is my favorite of all of them. :)

So. Of course I have to update on one of the best parts of the week: Mission Tour with Elder Teh!!! It was pretty much one of the greatest experiences of my life. Seriously, it was such an inspired and spirit filled meeting. I won't go into too many details about what he taught us about, but it was amazing. There was a lot about obedience. They had asked us all to come to the meeting fasting so that we could contribute better to the spirit. He also asked us all to prepare 3 different talks (with specific topics) and that we would be called on at random to give them. Well... when I was preparing mine I felt like I might end up giving one. Well, sure enough, I got called on to speak. My topic was "Preparing to Teach with the Spirit". It just happened to turn out that I had had a pretty extensive personal study on this very topic just the week before and so I had tons of notes and personal revelation to draw on. It was amazing! I was so grateful for the inspiration I had received to study that earlier and for the inspiration of Elder Teh to have me speak. It was such an amazing experience. Terrifying, I mean, I was speaking in the presence of a member of the first quorum of the seventy (agay! that's an expression here) but mostly it was just great. I was so grateful to be able to share my testimony of what I had learned.

So that was the week! It was a pretty full one and pretty exhausting but so AWESOME! I learned a lot of really vital stuff this week in so many different situations and experiences. It was so great! Well I love you all and hope you are all doing well and loving life. I know I am!!!

Sister Jackson

Pictures! Woohoo!!
1. Me and my beautiful companion, Sister Tambolero
2. Me with a HUGE frog that I found in our yard and then scared all the sisters with... hahaha. I am my mother's daughter!
3. Sister Tambs and I with Elder Teh! He is SOOO awesome!
4. This WAY cool sundial we found in a new part of our area. Those are Carabao horns with the numbers on them and then the man's spear casts the shadow. It was awesome. It's almost noon in the picture! :)

Well hello family and friends!

So this week I don't have any crazy stories to tell, but I definitely had some great spiritual experiences that I wanted to share and just some awesome things about my week.

So earlier this week we went to visit Jeannette, one of our solid investigators. I've talked about her before. Anyway, it was her son's 4th birthday on Feb. 2 so I decided (because he is my favorite... :0) to get him a little gift. So we went to go teach her and bring the gift over. The teaching was great and she is just getting more and more excited for her baptism. When we were done I gave the toy to Joel. He was pretty excited. It was a Spiderman and a motorcycle. He was over the moon. That of course made me pretty happy. This family is VERY poor. Their house is falling apart, they have to work all the time to provide, but they are also fiercely independent. So you can imagine my shock when she demanded that we share in the birthday meal. We tried to resist, knowing how little they had, but she was SO insistent. It's tradition here on birthdays to have spaghetti. They also had lumpia (like spring rolls) and some macaroni salad. It was a feast, let me tell you. I could barely eat knowing the sacrifice it was. I almost started crying right there. I think, even with all the poverty around me, that was the first time it really effected me. I only ate a little, mostly because I just couldn't because I was feeling so emotional. She wanted us to eat more, but we just told her we were really full and had other appointments so we needed to go. The rest of the day I just thought about that sacrifice--she just wanted to share with us. The generosity here AMAZES me. Seriously, it's incredible. Then later this last week I was reading in Jesus the Christ and came across the part about the Widow's mite. I couldn't help but think about my experience earlier that week. The people here definitely understand what it means to sacrifice. I think that is why Pres. Hinckley was able to give them such an incredible blessing and promise if they were willing to pay their tithing. He said they would never be cursed with wealth, but they would have rice in their bowls, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. It's a beautiful promise and not one that has been given to every culture. Tithing is so important!!!

So Jeannette also had her baptismal interview on Friday and she passed with flying colors. She is so excited and I am ecstatic about it. We had to move our other baptisms. Jenelyn is great, but she has little education and so she has really struggled to understand everything. We thought she was doing great (she keeps commitments) but when we went over BIQs with her, she couldn't even tell us why prophets were important. So we pushed her back 2 weeks. Hopefully she will be ready by then. John Ray is totally ready and one of the smartest kids I have ever met, but we haven't been able to get to him enough. He lives out way far and now has a job and so it's been difficult to get everything taught to him. So we pushed his back one week. He's so excited he wasn't phased by that at all. He just wants to keep progressing. He's such a great kid. I have all these visions of who he will be in the future: a leader, a missionary, a bishop... :)

So obviously this week was the first week of February so we had the opportunity to fast this Sunday. It was a great experience. I had been fasting for some specific things and IMMEDIATELY saw the effects of my fast while we were teaching one of our investigators. It was so incredible. And then during studies on Sunday I was able to receive some really crucial personal revelation. I just want to say that fasting is amazing. I felt the spirit SO strongly this particular time and I really needed that experience. I had a strong desire and the Lord really provided for me perfectly. Just a little plug for fasting. If you can, DO IT!!!! :)

So this week we have mission tour. Elder Teh of the Philippines Area Presidency is coming to tour the mission, conduct zone conferences and also make home visits. We are all pretty excited. In preparation we had a huge house cleaning project. We were told that Elder Teh for sure would be visiting our house, so we worked hard getting the house ready. Luckily we have a house CSP every first friday of the month, so we had the time to really clean. It's such a privilege to have a general authority come to our mission. He has asked us that we come fasting to our respective meetings. Another opportunity to fast! I'm excited for what he will teach us and train us on. It's going to be a great week!

Well I think that's really it for now. I'm sure there are other things, but I can't remember them. The weeks are all going by so quickly that I can't even remember what week or day was what! hahaha. Well I hope everyone is doing really well back home. Of course I miss and love you all, but I'll admit, I'm much happier that I am here than in the U.S. right now! You should all be jealous that I am in the Philippines, it's basically the best place on earth! I love you all!!!

Sister Jackson

Shootings, break-ins, and other such fun...

So I'm afraid this week there just won't be much to report. It was just a normal, good week. There wasn't anything too exciting... okay, actually I take that back, there was, but I'll get to that in a minute. But it was a way good week. Sure, we got punted plenty of times, but we also found 9 new investigators and still taught a lot. Our area is struggling a bit. We have 3 REALLY solid investigators with baptismal dates. But we don't have any other progressing investigators, which is hard. When the 3 get baptized, we won't have anyone. So we are OYMing all the time, trying to find new people, trying to find the elect. It's not easy, that's for sure. But it's still rewarding. And if anything, we are still planting seeds and that's just as much a part of missionary work as baptizing people.

Okay, so the exciting thing. So went to visit a member in a ward who was insistent that we come so she could feed us. She wouldn't take no for an answer. When we got there she started telling us this crazy story about how earlier that morning a woman (a widow) had shot another woman on the street and that there was blood everywhere and it was crazy. So of course she starts freaking out for our safety and all that. Filipinos get a little crazy about the safety of the missionaries sometimes. They also love to tell stories. She started making all the assumptions that maybe it was a love triangle situation. Well it turns out she didn't really know what had happened. The real story is that some guy got mad at some girl (apparently she hit him) and so he shot her. Yeah, not quite the crazy love triangle story we had thought before, but indeed, someone got shot and someone died. Pretty gruesome, no? Yeah, so course everyone was worried for us. But I wasn't really too worried. Things like that NEVER happen in the Philippines. They have a lot of petty crime here, but not anything really dangerous. It was pretty crazy though. Who does that? Crazy people, who don't have the gospel, that's who...

Speaking of crimes, I forgot to tell something last week that happened. We were on our way to an appointment when we saw our bishop. He seemed a little out of sorts. He told us that someone had broken a window at the church. We were shocked. We told him we would come by after our appointment. When we got there we found out that someone had actually cut the bold off one of the doors, broken most of the locks on the doors inside the chapel, had broken the windows on the doors to the library and the other bishop's office and had stolen the DVD player and P2000 worth of tithing and P600 of personal money. That's not a huge some by American standards, but it is here. We couldn't believe it! Who steals from a church? It was obviously planned because they had bolt cutters and Bishop thinks it was an inside job because they knew where they were going and where stuff was. It was so sad. I can't believe anyone would be that desperate... I mean, come on! A CHURCH!!!??? I feel very sad for that person.

Well that's about all for me right now. I'm attaching a lot of pictures because I have gotten behind in that, so that will make up for the short letter. Love you all and think and pray about you all the time!!!!

Sister Jackson

1. Me and Sis. Elwood at this awesome restaurant, "21". It's basically like America... observe the banana split

2. A crazy Ceres ride.. like most Ceres rides

3. A HUGE snail. They are everywhere!

4. A Carabao... It's a huge cow thing...

5. Our AWESOME district last transfer. It was the best ever..

6. Kenneth's baptism! The ward and all their craziness.

7. The Victorias sisters at our Christmas night in the Plaza

8. Okay, so I took this in an investigators home, that's why it is blurry, but I had to take it quick before they came back. These are in almost every home here. It's their classic saint doll. I took a picture of this one because it is clothed in a basketball jersey and shorts... I have no idea why, but I almost peed my skirt when I saw it. People here are ridiculous about their Santos...

9. A GIANT spider that we killed and had a big scream fest over in the bathroom...