The Final Countdown.... aka The Last Email

Well folks, this is it. The last one. The final email from the field. Can't believe it. Next Monday I will be on my way to Manila. I'll stay the night there and then Tuesday morning I will head off to America. Because of the time change I will actually get to America also on Tuesday. But it will be the longest day ever... To be honest, I don't even know what to write. It seems surreal...

Brother Tiva was baptized on Saturday! Perfectly successful baptism. And he was so ready. And excited. John Mark, my favorite recent convert baptized him. He's a priest. Such a great kid. He memorized the baptism prayer and Bro. Tiva's name and did it all in English. I was so proud. Such a great baptism! Now their family is complete and they are planning to go the temple next Christmas! It was a great last baptism for my mission. I couldn't have asked for better. Especially with all the miracles we saw with him. Oh and speaking of which, we stopped by to share a bit with him before his baptism on Saturday. We were following up his reading and he told us he that is wife said he should really read every work of the Book of Mormon so he went back (he had already started 1 Nephi) and decided to read everything: title page, intro, testimonies, etc. He was telling us that when he suddenly got all excited when he related to us about when he read from Joseph Smith's testimony about the appearance of Moroni. He was just so amazed by that experience. And then he just simply said, it has to be true. I don't even know if anyone else in the room actually heard him say that, but I did. It was such a quiet statement, but it was coming from deep within him. I could see it. He has the witness. It's a beautiful thing to get to see and be a part of his conversion. I'm so grateful. So many blessings.

Anyway, today is the last P-day so that means crazy fun times with my members here. We'll cap off the day with FHE at my branch president's house with I think most of the branch... ahahaha. You can't really keep people away from these things. Anyway, i have many crying days ahead as I say goodbye to these people who are very much my family now. I can't even express how much love I have felt here. No judgments, no criticisms, they just love me (of course I don't mean to imply that's all I get from my actual family... ahaha, just saying, they have never done that and I see it as a sign of their love for me... just clarifying that... ). It's been such a wonderful experience. I will definitely be leaving a big part of my heart in San Carlos. This is my favorite area.

Well I love you all and will very literally see you soon! Can't wait! Love you!

Sister Jackson
aka... the soon to be Hayley... yuck... I'll keep sister jackson I think... :)
Maayong Pasko!!

Well Merry Christmas to all!

Even though we have been celebrating Christmas here in the Philippines since September, now that is officially December I feel I can finally just let it all out. I think mostly I have been avoiding acknowledging Christmas because it just means I'm closer to going home. And now the clock is really ticking. 2 weeks. It hardly l seems real. So sorry again for the pathetic email last week. I'll try to send a bit more this week. My trunkiness is now manifested in a apathy to email. I mean, come on, I'm going to be seeing most of all of you pretty soon. :)

Okay, so great things this week:

The visiting teaching is officially organized in San Carlos Branch 1! The sisters have their assignments, we have supervisors, and great lessons have been taught about the importance of visiting teaching. I know for most of you this probably seems odd, but in the Philippines Home and Visiting teaching hardly exist. We are trying to change that. And so now its rolling here. It's awesome. Now we just need to get to work on the Home Teaching. That will probably fall mostly on my companion... poor thing. But it will get done. She is awesome and very capable.

The best news this week was that BROTHER TIVA PASSED HIS INTERVIEW!!!!! It went really well and we could just SEE his excitement to get baptized. And this is from a man who doesn't show a lot of emotion. He is just ready to unite his family and that is the best part. This is going to be one of the best baptisms of my mission just because of all that is has taken to get him baptized and all the miracles we have been able to see in his life. It's awesome.

We had a specialized training this week in Bacolod. The travel was KILLER, but the training was great. Our mission president just had a seminar in Cebu and received direction from the Area Presidency specifically for the Philippines that we as missionaries need to focus more on Rescue of the lost members. Well our mission president is really inspired because we have been doing that my whole mission. But now with the specific call from the brethren, we are increasing our efforts. Our primary focus is supposed to be on less-active and part-member families. We have been discouraged from tracting. It's just not helping when the foundation is already failing. Our training informed us that there are 647,000 members in the Philippines and only 114,000 active. Yikes! That's such a huge number! President Tobias compared it to the scripture in Jacob 5 about the branches being too lofty and they had outgrown the strength of the roots. The problem comes down to doctrine. We have to return to teaching the basics: the Doctrine of Christ. Faith, Repentence, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. And as I have been doing that as a missionary I have seen the miracles. Nothing compares to the doctrine.

So we have already seen the benefits. On Sunday we fasted specifically that we would be able to find the less-actives that really need us now. We started our fast on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday we had plans to go to a referral with one of our members (she's an RM). Well the family was amazing. They have one son who is not yet baptized and they are all LA. But they are SO ready to come back. There hearts were soft and prepared. Sister cried. She just wants that happiness for her family. After a great, spirit-filled lesson, our member took us to another LA family that we didn't know. There we found A TON of members of this family who are all LA. They were happy to see us and welcomed us in. Then we found 4 children who are not yet baptized and are 9. We didnt even know. I definitely saw the blessings of our fasting and of following the vision of our mission president and of our area authorities. We still have a lot of work to do with them yet, but I just feel good about it. It just felt like the right direction and that was something we were trying to find. Miracles. Nothing but miracles.

Anyway, that's about all for this week. Hope that was better than last week. I don't even know what I will write next week since it will be my last email home. That's a crazy thought. Hope you are all ready. I'm not. Hahahaha. :) Love you all!!!!

Sister Jackson