"I found the smell.... it's a dead rat."

We've had a pretty bad leak in our kitchen. Every morning we wake up and there is a small lake in front of the sink. We were using old missionary clothes to soak it up. We thought that was the source of the smell so my companion put the rags in a bucket with some bleach. But the smell was still there, in fact it was getting worse. Well we had a bucket under the sink to catch the water from a DIFFERENT leak. Sister Vaipulu, being the fearless champ that she is, decided to investigate the bucket. We figured maybe just the water was the smell. I mean, it was bad. It smelled like death. Well turns out it was death. A rat had crawled in the bucket... somehow... and drowned. So she ran the bucket outside to be taken care of later. I was upstairs getting ready during this time and so I didn't see the whole thing. Well later when I was examining the bucket I couldn't see a rat in the murky water. I thought maybe she just imagined it (she's fearless, but she HATES rats). So I got something to stir the bucket around... bad idea. Apparently the rat had been in there for awhile and when I stirred the bucket around... pieces of rat floated to the top...

So now that I have officially made you all vomit (honestly folks, this is just a day in the life of a missionary in the Pines) how is everyone doing? I'm doing great. Rats aside, life is good. This week was a good one. There was some unforseen challenges, but still a good week. We found some new investigators using our part-member list, people who are genuinely interested in the church BECAUSE their spouse is a member, and we taught some great lessons and we had some adventures and it was just a good week. I really do love it here in San Carlos. We are nestled between the beautiful mountains and the ocean. The people here are wonderful live everywhere else on this island and I just love it. I am starting to not just learn Cebauno, but I like it! I'm not going to lie, it's pretty cool that I am going to come home speaking 3 1/2 languages (I only kind of know Tagalog these days...). It's a fun time.

We had a great experience last night. We have been teaching this family, the Verranas, and they are really elect. They are smart and hard-working people and they really have a strong desire to know real truth and follow it. They are the kind of people you pray for and don't expect to really find. Last night we brought the Bevans (the couple missionaries and our favorite people ever) with us to watch the Restoration and to bear testimony of Joseph Smith. It was amazing. The spirit was strong, they really were into the movie and they felt it. Afterward they had good questions about authority and baptism. Well all bore powerful testimony. My companion rocked it out by extending baptism if they received an answer that it was true and Sister Verrana actually interrupted Sister Vaipulu to tell her "yes, of course!". They are just amazing people. We are really excited for them. We are praying that the answer will come quickly so that we can give them a baptismal date. Huge tender mercy.

Other than that we are just working hard to upadate the really poorly kept records and help this branch get organized. They have great potential, they are just a little lost at the moment. But next month we have District Conference and an area authority is coming to speak so that should be awesome. And just what this place needs to give them a good jump start. I'm excited to see the progress this place will make before I go home. I love being a missionary and will just inform you all now that I am not really that excited to come home because I'm going to miss this place so much. So prepare yourselves for the fact that I may complain about how we don't eat rice with every meal, none of you speak my favorite language, and I can't just jump in a tricycle to go to the grocery store... hahahaha. Of course I'm just kidding and I AM excited to come home again, but I really can't imagine leaving this place. I can't imagine life without the Filipinos all the time. Sometimes I forget that I am a giant white person... then of course I am reminded by 6 kids on the side of the road that just stare, open-mouthed and then one brave one finally says "Grabe... dako!" That means, "Wow, big". Yeah, that brings me back. But still, I love this place. It's Zion to me!!! Well I love you all and hope you are all great. Christmas starts up here this week. September means Christmas in the Pines, so bring on the christmas music. If any of you have some good christmas tunes to send, just email them away and I will put them on my iPod! Love you all!!! Amping!

Sister Jackson
Do you know the way to... San Carlos?

Greetings from the other side of the island... and the world!

So this week was a week of adjustment. Obviously, with any new area that is the biggest thing of the first week of a transfers, but particularly when I am in such a different place and there is a different language. But I am happy to report that I love it here and I'm happy to be here. The language is coming a little at a time. Luckily I understand most of what people say (they are really pretty similar languages) and they understand my Ilonggo for the most part. I think it will take some time, which of course I hate, but I know that it will come eventually. It's likely that I will probably stay in this area until I go home so I do have some time to try to and get a hang of the language. I would really appreciate your prayers, particularly for this.

So this week was spent mostly getting acquainted with the area and the people. This area is really struggling so there aren't a lot of quality investigators and there are a lot of problems with records and other things in the branch. But I think that's why I am here. President Tobias knows how much I love working on the CMIS lists and just the lists in general. So I am excited to help this branch get back on it's feet and more prepared for us to bring in converts. As it is right now, the branch can't really sustain any more people. The memberships is HIGH but the attendance is very LOW. But that's what we will work on. We will get LA back to church and hopefully find some Part-member families along the way. Luckily this is a district so it's under the direction of Pres. Tobias. And he is sending the senior couple, the Bevans, to be assigned here now. I LOVE THEM and so I am way excited to work with them. We are going to do good things here, I know it!

We did have 2 baptisms on Saturday. They were the two little girls of a LA woman. Probably not a decision I would have made, but it was already in the works when I got here and they are smart little girls and they LOVE reading the Book of Mormon. Now we just need to get their dad baptized and their mom fully active. That's the most common situation here. It's hard on the kids. That's why we have the commission we have now from the Area Presidency to seek to strengthen the unit before we go out searching for new people. Deepen the pool before you widen it, that is Pres. Tobias' catchphrase. It's a good one.

I love being with Sis. Vaipulu. We get along well. We are best friends and like sisters. We are also really united in our desires here and in our purpose. We are helping each other in really important ways and I am grateful for her. She is awesome. Definitely a tender mercy!

Oh, before I forget, in other news. Sister Jeannette called me last Friday to tell me that the Pastrana family, the family we were working with in Victorias, were getting baptized on Saturday. So yesterday, Sunday, they were confirmed. I had a mild ecstatic fit in our apartment. We weren't sure what was happening with them. We got a letter from their young daughter, but it didn't say if they had been baptized. Well now they have been. So AWESOME!!!! That was my first and still only full family that we taught. They weren't all baptized together, but the parents and one or 2 of the children were (I wasn't totally sure). Such a huge blessing. I didn't get to witness the harvest, but we planted some hearty seeds. I love this work.

Okay, well that's all I have time for this week. I hope everyone back in the states, or wherever you are in the world right now is doing great. I am. I started my 3rd to last transfer last week. This last 4 months i going to be the best and I am so excited for everything... just not excited about coming home... But that is something I will think about when it's here. For now--- ONWARD!!!! Love you all!!!

Sister Jackson

Talk about one way out of left field......

Well folks, this is definitely going to be an exciting email. Last night we got transfer announcements. Yeah.

So... it turns out that I was the one of the two of us to transfer. I wasn't too happy about that. I only spent one transfer in Bakyas and I wanted to spend more. It was such a hard transfer and I just didn't feel like I got to do all I was supposed to do for reasons I couldn't control. But of course, the Lord knows what is best. So Elder Ili (our AP) told me that I was transferring and that they would be taking me to my area on Monday afternoon. I asked if I was whitewashing again. He said no and then told me that I was going to San Carlos. Now I know that that means absolutely nothing to all of you. But here it's a BIG deal. First of all, not a lot of white people go here because it is REALLY far away from the office. It's 2.5 hours away and through mountainous roads. We're actually closer to Cebu then we are to Bacolod. That also means that I am going to learn a new language. People don't speak Ilonggo here, they speak Cebuano here so I will be learning Cebuano. So yeah, CRAZY!!!! And then... on top of all of that I AM COMPANIONS WITH SISTER VAIPULU!!!! Yeah, we are both seniors now, but we will just be co-seniors. I AM SO EXCITED!!!! I love this girl with all my heart, she is my best friend in the mission and I am so excited to get to be with her again. I mean really, how many people get to be companions with their MTC companions again!? It's awesome. It's going to be really challenging, I have no doubts about that, but it's also something I know I need. I learned a lot of lessons this last transfer and I was constantly praying for the Lord to give me the opportunity to show my faith and put into practice what I learned. Well, I think this may be an answer to my prayer. I need to be a little more careful about what I pray for as a missionary. I tend to get things that I pray for, just not in the way I usually would have asked for them. But that's life. Especially on the mission. But I'm excited for the new adventure and the opportunity for growth. Woot! I can do it!

Well everyone, I am ridiculously tired right now. I didn't sleep at all last night because of packing and anxiety so I am afraid this will be kind of short. But I'm in a new place, new language, new culture, new/old companion. Pray for me. :) Love you all!!!

Sister Jackson
Stress Anyone?

Well folks, time is pretty limited this week and so this may be a bit of short one.

This week was difficult. I won't get into all the details because most of it is just not worth the time to type, but needless to say, my faith was tested. But in a good way. In fact I was faced with the choice to face it head on and be positive or get discouraged. I faced it and I am much happier for it. That is the mission in a nutshell. Everyday. My companion is facing more health issues. I'm pretty sure they are related to stress. I'm just trying to be supportive and helpful and hope that she can overcome them and we can get out to work. I have faith that we will!

So this week we had Zone Conference. It was a little different, less people and new trainings. We had the area mental health representative, Sister Aguilar, come and teach us about stress. Hahaha. Little did I know how much stress I was experiencing and what it was doing to me. That was a wake-up call. Isn't it ironic that the psychology major (that's how everyone knows me here) is the one that seemed to forget the most the effects of stress... At one point S. Aguilar asked me what stressed me out. I just laughed. Then everyone laughed. Everything. That's the answer. But it's good. It moves me to action. I thrive on stress... and then sometimes I almost die from it too. Hahaha. Really, I'm doing great, I just found some areas that I need to do some new things to keep the bad stress at bay. But all is well here in Zion and life is good! I promise!

So this next week is the last full week of the transfer which means next week things will be changing. We're not totally sure if our situation will be changing. It's possible that we stay together, but it's also possible one of us goes. I don't want to go. I am finally starting to feel like I have a purpose in this particular area and I want to work to do some good here. I don't think I am done being here. And I told President I didn't want to leave. :) We'll see what happens. I'll let you all know of course!

Yesterday after church we did a great Preach My Gospel training with our bishopric and ward missionaries and some auxillary members. It was great. They are all so excited to learn more about missionary work and work with us to help strengthen their ward. We have their support and their trust I hope so I have great hopes for this area. We can get these people to really work and so I think we can really strengthen their unit. That is all I ever want to do and that is President's vision so you know, we're on the right page.

Well that's really all the time I have this week. I'll try to have some exciting stories for you all next week. It's been raining like crazy here, one Baguio (storm) right after another. But we just get rain and wind. We're lucky. So don't worry, whatever you hear on the news, I'm always safe. I love you all and hope you are doing great!

Sister Jackson
Life As I Know It

Well I'm sorry about no general email last week. It was a weird day and I just didn't have a lot of time and there really wasn't anything too exciting to report so I just didn't take the time. But I'm repenting now this week.

So this week was full of lots of challenges and also lots of good things as well.

On Tuesday we had district meeting and then I was supposed to have an interview with President Tobias at 3pm. Well the interview turned out to be really long and then President decided to give Sister Sheehan and I training right then about planning. It was awesome. Then he interviewed her and so we didn't end up leaving the office until about 6:30pm. Not the most productive day for the work, but it was a much needed experience with President. I didn't really know what I was going to talk to him about in the interview, but then of course, the Lord knew what I needed and President spent the time really talking about what I can do improve. He was frank with me but in a really loving way. There was no chastisement or anything, but I got the clear message and it was exactly the "pep-talk" I needed for my last 5 months. I was so grateful for it. And then the training he gave us was awesome. We put it into effect this very week and our weekly planning was SO much better. President Tobias really is the most inspired man I've ever met. I am so grateful for such an incredible mission president.

On Wednesday I was totally jazzed to get out and work, to put into action my new goals and resolves. We went out and we were going good, and then we just started getting punted like crazy. We had all these plans and nobody was around, it was POURING rain and we weren't having much success. But I tried to stay positive, this is just missionary work. Well I could tell that something was off with Sister Sheehan but she hadn't said anything. Well then she kind of snapped at me over nothing. So I asked her how she was feeling. She was actually feeling really sick didn't want to tell me about it because I was all excited for the work and she just wasn't feeling it. Well that wasn't going to help us have any success. She was sick and had no energy and felt like she was going to pass out. So we went and got something to eat and got her some water. She still wasn't doing well so we went home. The next day she was pretty sick and slept most of the day. Well, it was a bit difficult for me because I wanted to work, but this is the opposition that comes when you are trying to do what you're supposed to do. I understand the principle of "the blessings come after the trial of your faith". It's not enough to even just go and do, but you have to be able to go and do in spite of many challenges. And that's just how it works. So we both learned some good lessons.

So on Friday we were trying to find some other people and we were doing a lot of asking around to find them. Well we finally found the house of one of our Part-member, unordained, less active situations and actually got in the door. Well it turns out that the missionaries here before had been teaching Brother Robert, who is the son of Brother Roberto (the less active member). So we were excited to get a lot of work out of these people. Well, it turns out that Robert, the son who was only 25 had died just a month ago from an accident. We were shocked. But we knew what we needed to teach about. Sister Merlinda (the mom) came in and listened as well. She is not a member. So we were able to testify to both of them about the Plan of Salvation and how they will be able to see their son again. The spirit was so strong. Sisters heart was open. We are excited to help them progress and they have a lot of other family that all live right there. That was a tender mercy.

So like I said challenges and tender mercies. We have an amazing ward who are really supportive to us and are really eager to help strengthen their unit. That is awesome. There is priesthood leadership and they want to take responsibility. Miracle! So we have great hopes for this area. It's great. So that's about it for this week. I hope everyone is doing great and enjoying August! Love you all!!

Sister Jackson
Happy One Year to Me!!!!

Well folks, it's happened. I have officially been on my mission for a year now. And I can't believe it at all. It seems like just yesterday that I was a brand new, scared-out-of-my-mind, missionary in the MTC and now I am on the downward slope. It just never ceases to amaze me.

This week was an interesting one. I don't know if it was stress or maybe a bug of some kind but Sister Sheehan and I both got sick with stomach problems. She was barfing. So I stayed up with her that night. I think that just contributed to me becoming sick as well... Who knows, but I'm fine now. Weird week. We're still trying to get this place figured out and all the people. Thankfully we have amazing ward missionaries and a great ward mission leader which is helping a great deal, especially as we get to know the area and the people. We have a lot of fun with them too which is great. So I'm happy about where I am and what I'm doing. It's hard and I definitely don't feel really comfortable in my surroundings but that is part of being a missionary and also being a brand new area, whitewashing. That's life.

So I don't really have a whole lot more to say so I figured I would send a bunch of photos since it's been forever and I know that you all care more about that anyway. Okay I love you all!

Sister Jackson

1. Mexican food in the Philippines. My prayers were answered that day...
2.Sisters Conference with some of the sisters. We're all wearing Jody dresses... :)
3. Me and Shee... that's pretty normal looking for us.
4. My first ride in a Sikad which was driven by my bishop. It was awesome.
5. Me and Shee at the Beach
6. A Jellyfish! There were tons.
7. Beautiful sunset
8. Holding a brand new piglet... so cute!
9. A Handful of Cats! Our Cat had kittens
10. Me and Shee on the 4th of July
11. At the Cathedral... hehehehe
12. Famous mural called "The Angry Christ" It was weird but kind of awesome.
13. My favorite family ever! The Demandars!