Happy Easter!!!

Well for all of you I think that is still the last few hours of Easter, so Happy Easter. I am sure that Easter for all of you was a great, spiritual, day. Here in the Philippines things are a little different. There's really no Easter Bunny and instead of egg hunts they crucify someone and all have a parade where they scourge themselves... yeah, they are a little zealous here. I didn't actually see any of this, but I have seen pictures and video. It's pretty intense. So I hope that you all had a great day! :)

Well this week was interesting. First of all thank you all again for the birthday wishes. My birthday was great. My companion and I came home from our shopping last monday to find an awesome surprise birthday dinner for me from the other sisters. There was spaghetti and lumpia and it was delicious. I was very grateful for them and for their love. They are great. I love the sisters in my house, which is a bit of a change. They are all super sweet and awesome. I also love my companion. She is tiny, but powerful and sweet and hilarious and we have a good time.

So this week was hard. In fact, one of the hardest of my mission. I got sick. Really sick. Not quite "i had to go to the hospital" sick, but pretty sick. I'm pretty sure I have bronchitis (yes, I am still sick now). But since I'm in the Philippines, medical care doesn't quite work the same way. I have to go through my mission president's wife for everything. She's great. But for some reason, I still haven't seen a doctor. Instead she just contacted our area doctor, who is in Manila, and had just prescribed me antibiotics via text message (yeah, you don't need a prescription here). So it was a hard week. I wasn't able to go out and work and instead had to stay inside with a horrible cough and could hardly breathe. Don't everyone freak out or anything, I'm starting to get better, I think. Things are okay, it was a bit discouraging, but things are still great. We had investigators at church and recent converts, even though we didn't get to visit them. I am still seeing blessings. I thankfully have a really patient and loving companion and so I'm okay, really. But it was hard not being able to get out there. I think that maybe I am dealing with a weak immune system. We've also had crazy weather and so I think that didn't help. And I was just trying to work through what I thought was just a cold and I think that was probably stupid... But that's okay, I have medicine now and I am sure I am on the mend. But I would still appreciate any prayers my way! :)

Well that's about all I have for this week. It's a bit of a downer, I know, but that's okay. Not every week is perfect on the mission... believe it or not. :) Love you all, hope you are all doing great!

Sister J
Hello craziest week of my mission!

Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! Crazy things are happening here in the Philippines. At least for me anyway.

So last Monday we all just sat around in the house anxiously awaiting the transfer announcements. We knew changes were happening but we weren't sure what. We also found out that the transfer for sisters was happening on Tuesday morning, which meant that if I was transferring I would have only a few hours to pack and hopefully say goodbye to the most important people. I was stressing big time about that. So rather than just sit around like the rest of my housemates I went upstairs and started packing. I was sure I was transferring so I just figured I'd get a headstart. Well, then the dreaded call came from the Zone Leader. Sister Tambolero answered and after a short call she sat down, she looked a little weepy. We didn't know why. Then she told us the Seniors were transferring! So that meant that I am staying in Victorias for another transfer!!! And so is Sister Vaipulu!!! So yeah, my companion and the other senior sister transferred. I was so relieved. I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to these people, it was making me sick thinking about it. And I didn't feel like I was done working here in this area either. So I'm really grateful that I am staying here.

So on Tuesday morning we loaded up the other sisters bags onto a Ceres bus and made our way to Bacolod for the transfer. So we were sitting in the chapel and they start naming the new companionships and areas, they get to my area and the AP says "Sister Jackson, mag-Senior na with Sister Legayo". Wait. Back up. WHAT?! I am stepping up to Senior?! Yeah, turns out the other AP forgot to tell my Zone Leader that so I didn't know until the transfer. Elder Stradling asked me why it made a difference if I knew Monday night or Tuesday morning. I told him because I would have thrown up last night and not right there... ( I didn't actually throw up, just in case you're worried). So yeah, I am a senior companion now. I wasn't expecting that because there were only 2 sisters stepping up this transfer and there are older sisters than me in the mission, but I guess that was the revelation that President received. I'm not going to lie, it terrified me. As much as I may have thought I was ready, when the reality hit it was overwhelming. I feel a heavy weight of responsibility. But since then, although I am still terrified, I have felt much more peace and comfort from the Lord. He trusts me or he wouldn't have given that revelation to President, so I'm trying to hold on to that and just learn what I need to be a good senior.

So obviously now I have my first junior companion and she is AWESOME! She is however, the tiniest Filipina sister here in the mission. And I happen to be the tallest sister here in the mission. Clearly, my mission president has a sense of humor as well as a deeply revelatory mind... But it's fun. She is SOOO sweet and humble. But at the same time she is confident, she likes to work, and she has goals. She is driven and she is all about improving. It's like night and day from my last experience. I actually forgot what it was like to have a companion like that. But my last experience was a refining experience which I think was meant to prepare me for the responsibilities I have now. But I'm grateful for a companion who is patient with me, shows love to me, wants to accomplish goals, teaches me many things by her example, and who is fun to be around. Seriously, I'm overwhelmed by how grateful I am.

So in other crazy news... Today just happens to be my birthday! It's crazy to think, and I really cannot believe that a whole year has gone by since my last birthday, that today is my birthday. That today I turn 24 years old... Yuck! I'm so old!!! Hahahahaha, Okay I know that all of you that are older than me just rolled your eyes and probably said something like "okay, you're still just a kid". That's what everyone here says too. "Bata pa ikaw!" That means, "you are a kid still". But I still feel a little old. I'm one of the oldest foreigner sisters here. But it's okay, I've just become everyone of the elder's big sister. I'm okay with that... As long as I'm not there grandma... :)

So yeah, that was my crazy week. It's hard to believe how fast things are going. This last week I hit my hump day... I am now on the downward slope of my mission. That is totally hard to believe. I feel like just yesterday I was in the MTC. On Saturday it's been one year since I graduated BYU. THAT IS CRAZY!!! Time is flying by WAY to fast. But I'm having amazing experiences along the way. Seriously, I can't even explain to you the love that I feel here. Especially from this ward, investigators, recent converts, etc. I really feel like I have a family here. Especially with Sister Jeannette. She's like a mom to me now. It's going to be really hard when I have to leave. Yesterday she gave me this really cheesy, but way cute pink hat in honor of my birthday. I love her. I love everyone here. I don't ever want to leave.

Well I think that's going to be all for now. This is already pretty lengthy, so I'll do updates on people next week. But I'm doing really good. I'm settling in to my new responsibilities. I am studying like mad Christlike attributes of leadership. I'm trying to do what I can to uplift and inspire my companion and at the same time help this are to progress. Of course there are always challenges, but I have the support of the Lord. In fact, since receiving this new assignment I have felt greater power from the Holy Ghost. My language is improving more rapidly, I feel a sense of humbling every day which just contributes to my gratitude. I'm really just doing great. Thank you all for your support and love for me. I can feel your prayers, so thank you so much. I love you all and pray for you all the time!

Sister Jackson
Conference, Conference, Conference!

Well this has been a busy week! So on Wednesday this week we had Zone Conference and then on Saturday and Sunday we had our broadcasts of General Conference so basically it was the week of conferences. But everything was so good that I was so grateful for every minute of everything. Man, I love inspired priesthood leadership.

Okay, so first of all about our Zone Conference. So the topics were about the Doctrine of Christ and also Using Time Wisely. The Doctrine of Christ training was awesome. It was all about keep things simple and really trying to help your investigators understand the simple invitations and commandments of the Savior. They talked a lot about how we need to have that understanding first before we teach it as well. We also have a goal now to be extending baptism within the first or second lesson to help establish the expectation and the spirit from the beginning. It was really inspiring and I totally know that it's effective. I've seen it happen. When you extend baptism, even if they don't understand it perfectly, they are required to exercise a particle of faith and the spirit just takes over and helps them know it's true and then they act, their faith grows and they are truly committed. It's awesome. Then there was a big training about using time more wisely and also having more effective weekly planning sessions. I learned SO much about my weaknesses at that time. I'm not slothful by any means, but I definitely found room for improvement and it was much needed. Especially with regards to weekly planning. I think I'm going to be a planning fool when I get home. Look out future husband, you're not going to know what hit you! :) President Tobias also talked a lot about personal conversion and personal worthiness, how those things relate and how important they are for us to be effective teachers. I know that this is definitely true. I see it all the time. It's all about how clean your vessel is. If you offer the lord a dirty, dishwasher-beaten, spaghetti stained piece of tuperware, He's not going to trust that you can effectively carry the message to the hearts of those you teach. But if you work toward having that clean, totally clear, perfect, crystal vase (although it may be fragile) the Lord knows you are ready and willing and he will help you be effective. It's true. Of the few things I can say that I REALLY know, I know that that is true. And I'm grateful for it.

Okay, so now for General Conference. So I was SUPER excited for this conference. Especially as a missionary, you just are starving to hear the prophets voice and I was definitely fed this weekend. It was AMAZING!!! Seriously, conference just gets better and better. After it was over I found that there 3 specific themes that I found: 1) Remembering covenants and attending the temple 2) the need to practice Charity ALWAYS and 3) The blessings that come from trials. It was so good! Okay, here are some of my favorite things about it.
1. 52, 225 missionaries serving in the field. I AM ONE OF THOSE!!!! It was just so awesome to hear that number and know I'm a part of something so big, the biggest of all things! It was so awesome.
2. Elder Kent F. Richards talk about the purpose of pain. This was awesome and I really found so much personal application to it. I especially like the analogy of the Savior as the Master Physician. It's so true. GREAT TALK!
3. Elder Russell M. Nelson's talk about faith and obedience. There really is no substitute for this. I have learned that this is especially true on the mission.
4. Elder Dallin H. Oaks. Okay, so he has always been one of my absolute favorites and this talk about Desires was amazing. Let me just say that serving my mission in a country that is so overwhelmed by vices, this was especially poignant to me.
5. Elder Paul V. Johnson--Okay, a talk about hiking and trials! Yes please! This was so great and so true. It's about he journey that get's us to the summit and the beautiful views, so enjoy it!
6. Elder Richard G. Scott's talk about marriage and his wife. Well I definitely bawled like a huge baby the whole time he was giving this talk. I can't even imagine how hard it must be for him now not to have such an amazing woman in his life. But I am so grateful for his example and his willingness to share about his experiences. What a great reminder for all of us of the importance of marriage and the REAL, TRUE, LIVING blessings that come from eternal marriage and from NO OTHER SOURCE.

Okay, so that's all I really have time to share now. I hope everyone enjoyed the awesomeness that is General Conference. If you missed it get on lds.org right now and download is. It's all there, waiting to be read!

So in other great news, we had 2 investigators at Conference and 3 recent converts. That may not seem like much, but our stake center is pretty far away and most people can't afford to come that far. But our bishop is awesome and got those that were ready to conference. It was SUCH a huge blessing. I cried. I wasn't sure if anyone would come. Almost our entire ward was there. I cried in gratitude to Heavenly Father. The best part was the brother Joel (the husband of our recent convert and my favorite, Jeannette) was at conference with his wife in a white shirt. We have been teaching him and he is SOOO smart and he remembers so much detail from what he reads. He always reads. He knows it comes little at a time, but he knows so much is true. And there he was at conference. It was AWESOME! Seriously, I'm jumping up and down here with excitement.

Well that was my week. Amidst the busyness we even got to teach some lessons as well! Later today or tomorrow morning we should know who is transferring. We are sure that it is one of us, we're just not sure who. It's probably me because I've been here longer, but who knows. I'll admit I am not ready to say goodbye to these people, but that probably means it's time to transfer. We always need growth and change... no matter how much we hate it. Well wish me luck for this next transfer. It's my 6th, can you believe it. Actually this week is going to by my HALF WAY MARK!!!! Yeah, I've been on my mission for 9 months. It's going WAY to fast, but I'm loving every minute of it. I will also celebrate my 24th birthday this next Monday. I'm not quite as happy to be reaching that milestone... i feel like an old person. But that's okay, birthdays have to happen. At least I'm a missionary and so it will just be like any other day. :) Well I love you all and miss you all. The gospel is so true, spread the good news!

Sister Jackson
Life... as I know it.

Maayong aga from the Philippines!

Well I hate to say this, but this week was probably one of the worst of my mission, so I don't have too much to report. I know I'm usually so upbeat and happy, and I am still happy, but this week was just kind of a low point for me.

My companion and I have just had so many issues for the last 2 transfers. I love her, I try to serve her, but it doesn't really seem to make things any better. Last Monday we had this awesome tri-zone activity where all of the missionaries just got together and played games and hung out. It was a ton of fun. I could tell my companion was upset about something, but when I asked her about it she said nothing and that she was fine. But then of course she wasn't fine and she just continued to treat me very coldly. This went on for 3 days. Yeah. It was ridiculous. At that point the tiny mole hill became Mt. Everest. I finally asked her to talk to me and tried to find out the problem. She still tried to tell me that there wasn't a problem. So i just forced it out of her. Finally she told me that on Monday that someone told her that I had something about our area and how it wasn't progressing. First of all, I NEVER said ANYTHING to anyone about our area. I didn't want to talk about my area, I was having fun just relaxing with the other missionaries. Second of all, I don't know why it would matter if I had talked about our area to anyone. Our area isn't really progressing, so that would have been the truth. But I didn't actually ever do that, so I don't know what the problem was. We have a big problem with gossip in this mission, and it's usually always negative. Anyway, that was the whole problem. This tiny little thing that wasn't even true that she wouldn't talk to me about. Then it fester and so she got more and more mad at me until we had so much disunity that we couldn't even go out to teach. It was ridiculous. I told her that she has to tell me when there is a problem. She can't lie to me when I ask her straight out about it. She usually gives me excuses like "that's just how I am". Well let me just say, I hate that excuse. As missionaries we have to give up who we are for a greater cause, to be more like the Savior. Anyway, I know this is a bit much, but I just need to vent. And I also know that many of you have been on missions or have had similar experiences with family, etc. So I need some advice. I probably won't be with Sis. Tambolero after transfers next week, but what if something like this happens again? How do I deal with a companion that never wants to talk to me, that doesn't try to be my friend, and won't be honest with me about problems or concerns? I've tried doing everything I can do help the situation and it just doesn't seem to really make a difference. I need some help!

So with all the ridiculousness of this week our work definitely suffered. I felt like crying all week thinking about how we weren't out visiting our investigators. But I also learned a lot of lessons for my future as a missionary and also for after my mission. So I'm at least really grateful for that.

I did have a coupe of really good experiences this week so I thought I would share those, try to balance out the earlier part of this email. So on Saturday we went to visit one of our investigators who is the son of one of our less-actives. We hadn't been able to see him for a whole week for a lot of reasons, so we planned to teach him just about the apostasy and the restoration. Well it was my turn to teach about the restoration. I always get a little nervous when it's time to recite the first vision. I mean, it's Hiligaynon, it's not the easiest language and the First Vision is SO important. I know it wasn't perfect, but they really understood what I was saying. When I was finished brother grabbed his arm and looked up at us... He got chills while hearing about the First Vision! It was so awesome. Then for the rest of the lesson, he just looked really thoughtful as we taught him. I think it will be little by little for him, but he's smart and he's willing. It was a great experience, the spirit was really strong.

Then yesterday, Sunday, we had Fast and Testimony meeting (we have conference next week). Since it was probably my last Sunday with that ward I decided to bear my testimony. For some reason as I walked up to the pulpit, I just felt really overwhelmed by the spirit. As I was walking up I also saw one of our less active sisters walk in. She hasn't been to church in a LONG time. I looked at bishop who was doing a thumbs up and had a huge smile on his face when he saw her. When I got to the pulpit I just started crying. My heart was so full! I love the people here in the Victorias 2nd ward SOOO much. I just felt it all come together at that moment. Shakingly I bore my testimony of the love of our Savior for each of us and my gratitude for the gospel. Right after I sat down, Sister Jeannette, my recent convert got up to bear her testimony for the first time since her baptism. I just cried all over again. I was just so grateful for that moment. It was so precious to me and much needed after a hard week and 2 difficult transfers. Despite all of the struggles, I have seen success here and I have built real relationships with people. I'm really grateful for that. That is success to me.

Well that's about it for me. We get transfer announcements next week. I think I'm probably transferring, I'll let you all know! Love you all tons and tons!

Sister Jackson

1. A GIANT cathedral in my area that was never finished. They still use it, but it looks pretty broken up close
2. Companion exchange with Sis. Ziebarth. We had lunch at a place called Chinky's... yeah...
3. California in the Philippines. The irony of this bus art is that is says San Diego, but the picture definitely looks like Washington, so it's perfect for me!
4. The way to one of our investigators, a really narrow path that sits about 8 inches above a swamp... awesome!
5. A "white" Carabao. It's kind of pink, but it's an albino of those huge bull things here.
6.The Victorias Sisters in Bacolod!
7. Having a little too much fun at the plaza in Bacolod before our zone activity
8. We're awesome...
9. I got a stye in my eye. It's ugly, I know, but it had to be documented.

So the adventures continue here in the Philippines! This week was somewhat eventful. I guess it's always eventful for me, maybe not so much for all of you... :)

So on Tuesday we had a companion exchange. It was a good experience. The other senior in our house, Sis. Ziebarth, came into my area with me and my companion went to the other. It was good for a lot of reasons. I realized that I am a lot more capable of leading than I thought I was. Since it was my area, I had to get us around, begin teachings, etc. I didn't know if that was something I could do, but after that I realized that I can! And I felt SO much more confident with the language afterward as well. I never feel confident with that, but lately I've had some good experiences that have taught me that I need to have more confidence in that. It was also a good experience because it helped me to realize how much I appreciate Sis. Tambolero. We've had some rough times in our companionship, but we've also had some great times. Sometimes I think we would focus too much on the difficult experiences and forget about the good. But when she came back, I realized how much I appreciate her as a missionary and as a companion, so that was great!

We also had some fun adventures this week going out to some new areas. One of them we had NO idea where we were or where we were going. Eventually we go to our ward members house to teach a lesson and it was in this awesome, beautiful, totally Filipino place. It was awesome. Oh I forgot, I had this totally weird experience while I was on my exchange. So we were trying to find this less-active member. We tried to ask his family, they just kept saying they were all catholic and always had been. Well, that's nice, but he's on our membership record list. Finally we found him tambaying (that's like loitering) and so we started talking to him. He was once a way strong member, he served in the Elders Quorum Presidency, but now he has changed back to the Iglesia ni Cristo church. That is not the Catholic church. In fact, it's probably the worst church in the world. I refer to it as the great and abominable. It really is. Well we were talking to him, he was nice but you could tell he was a little uncomfortable and was trying to end the conversation. I persisted. Finally I felt a surge of inspiration and confidence and I pulled out a new copy of the Book of Mormon (he had an old copy that wasn't complete) and asked him if before he really changed religions if he would read the Book of Mormon again and really pray about it. I don't know if he has, or if he will, but I felt the spirit really strongly telling me to do it. So I did. I've been having lots of experiences like that lately and i have been really grateful. Sometimes I feel like I don't have those, but I do, and they're awesome. It was a cool experience.

So then we had this way cool experience yesterday too. Because it was Sunday, we didn't have as many proselyting hours and so we didn't really plan to find any new investigators. So we only goaled 1. Well we were walking to an appointment we thought was a sure thing, but we passed the mom of the lady we are teaching and she said that she wasn't there. We weren't sure what we were going to do. But then this other lady who was talking to our investigators mom started talking about how she wanted to hear our message. We had set up a time for Friday, but when our appt. fell through we asked if we could teach her right then. She said yes, and then one new person turned into 4 as her other family members came out to listen. Her daughter had actually been taught before. It was a great experience and I felt like my teaching was pretty strong, which I don't usually feel especially in a first lesson. But we both did a great job. It was awesome. It's amazing to me the blessings that come. They may seem so simple and small, but they are huge miracles to me and they make this work worth it and it's what keeps me going. I'm so grateful for this opportunity, for being able to serve a mission. It's the best experience in the world!

Well I love you all, I hope you are all healthy, safe, and well. There are crazy things going on in the world right now. People are really starting to wake up to what's important. I hope that you all can remember how important the gospel is, how it's the only way to happiness. I don't just know that because I've experienced it myself, but because I've seen it change lives! It's so true! Well, stay happy and faithful!

Sister Jackson

Okay, so that is the name of the local festival here and this morning, since it was P-day we got to go and watch the street dancing competition which was AMAZING!!! Seriously, it was so colorful and fun and awesome. I felt a little bit like I was in Mexico, but they just have that influence here. It was so much fun. We met up with Jeanette, our recent convert and her daughter and they watched with us. It was a blast. I am attaching pictures of the awesomeness.

So in the best news. BAPTISMS!!!! We had 2 on Saturday. Jeanette's daughter, Michelle and her friend, Grace. They are awesome. As soon as her mom was baptized she became interested in hearing us, and so was her friend. They became members instantly. They made friends with the YW, they participate in all of the activities. They are just awesome, awesome, girls. So we were pretty excited about their baptisms on Saturday. It was probably the best baptism I've had too. Everyone was there early, not just on time, but early. People were dressed appropriately. Pretty much the whole of the YW and the YW president were there. Michelle's whole family was there and Grace's dad even
showed up, late, but he showed up! It was awesome.

So we had some great experiences teaching this week. We contacted a less active who hasn't been to church in a long time. We actually got to teach her twice this week. Her husband just died in October so of course we talked to her about the Plan of Salvation again. She is smart and she remembers a lot. She cried when we taught her. Unfortunately she didn't come to church on Sunday, but we got a new investigator out of her 34 year old son, so that's promising. We're making progress. In fact, Sunday was awesome. We had 5 LA at church and a whole LA family. It was awesome. Despite all the stuff that is difficult, the Lord still sends those tender mercies. Thank goodness!

Well that's about it for this week. Things are great, I love you ALL!!!

Sister Jackson