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
it's a short one... sorry

Well folks, there is just not that much to say this week. Hahaha. I'm really sorry. Life is just kind of going on with my mission. We are still trying to help our investigators to get baptized. There are still plenty of trials that seem to come our way. For instance our 2 part member men who didn't have jobs so they couldn't afford to get married now have jobs! It's great. Except now they are working so much that they haven't been coming to church. Not great. But that's just how it goes. We're still trying to help them the best we can, with the gospel.

Well I'm way sorry this is so short. But we have a lot to do today. P-days are becoming more precious to me because I only have so much time to spend with people here. I'm sure you all understand. But I love you all and I can't wait to see you in 3 weeks!!!! Love you!

Sister Jackson
Happy Thanksgiving!

Well this week had it's share of trials... I'll just start off right there. Ha ha. Oh and Happy Thanksgiving. I think it's this week. Not to sure... not really a holiday here. hahaha.

Sis. Cherryl was supposed to be baptized on Saturday. We went to her house every day but she wasn't home. We weren't really worried because she was SO excited to get baptized. But toward the end of the week we got a little worried. Then her sister told us that Cherryl's sister-in-law had a baby. I think there were some complications and so she needed to go straight from the hospital to her sister-in-laws house to help take care of things. Well she lives really far away and so Cherryl was kind of stuck out there. So Saturday, 1pm rolled around and no Cherryl. There was a child of record baptism that day too so we just had to start. She never came. I was pretty devastated. This has never happened to me. We still didn't know all the details. Then on Sunday she didn't come to church. More heartbreak. But then she texted to apologize and explain what happened. I guess it was kind of unforseen emergency kind of a thing and so there really wasn't much she or we could do about it. And she's still not back yet, so we're not sure if we will be able to reschedule her baptism for this week or if it will be a little while yet. Such a bummer. I know she is still excited to get baptized, but the more time that passes and the less contact she has with us, the harder Satan is going to work on her. Not so good. But we are just praying really hard for her. Hopefully she comes back soon.

In happier news, Bro. Tiva is progressing! He finally said an audible prayer on his own in the lesson. That may not seem like such a big deal, but for us and him it was huge.I actually cried a little bit while he was praying. It was great. When we told him about the baptism on Saturday he said "Too bad it's not my baptism". He's so excited to get baptized. He can't wait. We just need time to teach him everything so he is ready and then he'll be on his way. Miracles. I love it.

So we're doing some great things with our branch and trying to strengthen it. We have activities planned for the youth, working on getting the VT really going with the RS. It's great and I'm excited for this branch to really take off and hopefully soon become a ward. It's great too because I love these people so much and I think they see that and so they trust me. That means everything to me. It makes all the difference too when we need to encourage them to change something or do something else. They are more receptive now then ever before. It's awesome. We are seeing progress, just little by little.

Well I know this was kind of short, but there's not too much to say. Life is good. Stressful. But that's how the end goes. I'm just trying to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the transition back to American life. That's not going to be easy. I apologize now. I am going to be a weirdo. Guaranteed. Hahaha. Well I love you all, hope you are all doing great!

Sister Jackson

Hubog, NPA, and Trunky Letters

Well this has been an eventful week here in San Carlos. Craziness is really the best word I can think of to describe it.

So here in the Philippines, because of the massive amounts of Catholics everywhere, when there is a catholic holiday, it's a national holiday. So on Tuesday it was All Saints Day... and then on Wednesday it was All Souls Day. I couldn't tell you the difference between the two or even what either of them mean. What I do know is that EVERYONE goes to the cemetary, lights candles, brings flowers and does who knows what all day. Which meant lots of punting for us, especially on Tuesday because that was actually the national holiday. Wednesday we had a little more luck, but not too much. It doesn't seem to matter if you are Catholic or not, when it's a holiday, it's a holiday and everyone celebrates.

Thursday was our Zone Conference, I will get to that in a minute, and also the first day of the biggest fiesta in San Carlos called Pintaflores which lasted until Saturday. So Thursday we didn't really do much anyway because ZC was all day. On Friday we expected to get kind of punted, but we still got some lessons in. But then on Saturday, that was different. That is the biggest day of the festival. Parade, dance festival, craziness EVERYWHERE and a ton of drunk people. We had a lunch appointment and that was about it. And then there was this other little problem that kind of effected our work. So we have this rebel military group here called the NPA and they don't like anyone and basically just want to kill everyone. Anyway, there was a threat made on the fiesta and because I am white I am especially at risk, so we weren't really allowed to do to much. We had to be in early and weren't allowed to be in big groups of people near any of the military or police because they were targets for bomb threats and shootings. For the most part the Philippines is just a peaceful and happy place and then every once in awhile you get crazies. And then EVERYONE in this town got totally hubog (that's drunk) and so it was much safer for us to just stay in our house. Nothing ever really happened with the NPA that we heard about, but it was better to be safe than sorry. And we got to see a ton of military people in our city. So that was fun... Ha ha. Nobody worry. No big deal.

So back to our Zone Conference. It was great. But it didn't feel like my last zone conference. It was weird. I don't know how to explain it. But it was still really good. I also got a chance to have an interview with Pres. Tobias which was great. He told me that he put me in San Carlos because I have a strong personality and he needs someone mature here. Apparently he is worried about false doctrine here. So he's sent me here to clean things up... hahaha... or so to speak. Anyway, I was just so grateful for the time with him and having him tell me that he trusts me. That makes such a difference to my confidence as a missionary. If you have the trust of the mission president you can trust you have the trust of the Lord. It's a good feeling.

Well today is the transfer announcement but I still don't know what is happening. No news yet. Last night I got my trunky letter, basically it's the keep working hard until the end letter, but then it has all this other stuff in the envelope too which doesn't exactly scream "focus". More like "the end is so close!" I don't like it. Oh well. I did get info for coming home. Looks like I leave the Pines on the 19th of December and get to St. George on the 20th. Time is flying! Love you all!!!

Sister Jackson
Happy Halloween

Oh my goodness. This week has FLOWN by. I just asked my companion what happened this week so I could have some material to write this and she said "Um... we woke up and it was already Monday again?" Yeah, that's how this feels right now. Time is going by at an astronomical rate and I can't handle it. It literally feels like I was just emailing yesterday. I can't believe how fast the time is going. When this transfer started Sis. Vaipulu and didn't feel like we were getting anywhere near the end. Now we're getting x-rays, itineraries and it's all just way too much! I still feel like I just got here. I mean, I can still remember this time of year, last year with perfect clarity. By the way, Happy Halloween! I was still with my trainer a year ago. Crazy!

Okay, so now that I've had enough of a breakdown, I'll try and remember something about this week to share.

It was SOOOOOOO hot! Like the hottest I think I've ever felt on my mission. Ironically it's rainy season here but no rain... only hot. It's funny, in the morning while we are having studies a lot of big clouds will roll in and make this awesome shade, and then as soon as we step outside in the morning to go work all the clouds are sitting on one end of the sky opposite of the sun doing absolutely nothing. So then we just melt our way to our appointments, Sis. Vaipulu drips along as we walk. I just turn red. It's awesome. And still, not matter how much of a radish I become the call of "gwapa!" still follows me wherever I go... Oh the Philippines.Today though, of course P-day (when we are not working) there is a nice breeze and a cloudy sky. Let's hope it continues this week because I am getting black! Seriously, I have the craziest tan lines and it's not pretty. Hahaha. I'm going to be a bit of a freak when I get home, sorry family and friends.

So despite the heat it was still a pretty good week. On Monday we had an FHE with the Tiva family. They are one of my FAVORITE families here, I love them all. Anyway, brother Tiva is the only one who is not a member because he as a smoking problem that he cannot get over. It's been years and a lot of missionaries. We are determined to help him. His family is AWESOME! Anyway, we didn't expect him to come to the FHE (he drives a pedicab and so he is always busy) and neither did his wife, but he came! He was late, but Sister told me later she was so shocked and she was so happy. We also had made a plan with Sister that we would come every day to see if he was home so we could teach him (he hadn't been giving us any real time). So that's what we did until finally he was home. We started from the beginning with Lesson 1 and focused on the word of wisdom again. It was a great lesson. Then we came back again. They weren't there, so we tried the other house. He wasn't there but just before we were about to leave, he showed up! He thought he could run away or hide. We joked about that. He laughed. He is a wonderful man. Shy, but so nice and we just want him to have an eternal family. He wants it so much too, but he just can't seem to kick the smoking. Any ideas? It's like 20+ sticks a day. Anyway, he came to church on Sunday and so we took a family photo of them and we are going to give him a laminated copy so that when he feels the urge to smoke he can look at his family and remember why he needs to quit. Hopefully it works. I love them.

Our other investigators are doing great. We started teaching Cheryl about the Plan of Salvation. I've never seen anyone get so excited about The Fall of Adam and Eve. It was awesome. She was SO interested. She told us she might not be at church because a family member died and she needed to go to the funeral. But she came anyway and stayed thought gospel essentials and it was awesome. We're still trying to get our Law of Chastity men on track to get married. It's hard when they don't have jobs. We're praying hard for that.

Anyway, the work is going forth. We still have plenty of hiccups. We lost some investigators this week. They were formers and we had high hopes for them, but after a few times we realized it was going NO WHERE. Brother just argued with us the whole time about how could our church be true if the Catholic church was older, and "I was born Catholic and I'll die Catholic". I would add that I don't actually think he really even believes his own religion all that much, but he was a stubborn old man. It was sad. But that's how it works. Sister Vaipulu and I have been talking a lot about what it is going to be like to see all these people again who have rejected us. What will they say to us? What will we say to them? Hopefully they will all accept the gospel before they die and it will be a happy reunion. Sad. It wasn't something I really understood until I came on a mission.

Well, we have lots to do this wonderful P-day and time is a tickin! I love you all. I can't believe I will see most of you really soon. Crazy! Don't be surprised if the minute I get off the plane I just try to turn around and go right back. I can't imagine leaving this place. Every day Sis. Vaipulu and I have the "that's something I won't miss" conversation. Usually it's things like the constant smell of pee, creepy men calling after us, seeing horrible poverty, etc. But mostly everything I won't miss is far outweighed by everything I WILL miss. But that's how the mission is. Every one warned me. It's too fast and when it's over you don't want to leave... if you did it right. Well it has been WAY too fast and basically I feel like this place is my home, so I guess that's how I should feel... sigh... Love you all!!!

Sister Jackson
Failures and Successes

So I think this could probably the subject line of almost every week and every email I have ever written on my mission, but this week, the juxtaposition seemed to stand out to me more. As a missionary it seems that every minute of every day is a roller coaster. It's the first lesson of the day, it was one of the most spiritually powerful lessons of your life, you feel on top of the world and unconquerable faith is motivating every step you take. And then... you get punted from every other appointment that day, no one wants to listen to your message, people seem to actually scowl at you as you walk past and then rather than faith, you are fighting against discouragement that follows at your back like a shadow. But you just keep going. You just keep taking one step forward, even though you are tired, dehydrated, sweat is dripping in your eyes, your shoes are full of mud and rocks and you've just added about 5 additional pox to your already growing collection of mosquito bites. That's life as a missionary. And especially in the Philippines. But then, you have the tiniest of tenderest mercies and all of the bad, all of the difficult, all of the discouragement about faces and you press on with faith again. You know they always talk about how missionaries have such difficult work because they need to understand what is what like for the Savior. Now, I know, that what I have experienced doesn't compare in even the minutest detail to what the Savior suffered or felt, but I can say that every hard day, every day when you really do think that you just can't go on and that you are done, those are the times when, hopefully, you have the perspective to take a step back and say, "Man, what am I complaining about, this is so much bigger than me!" Never mind whatever your motivation may be, even if it's completely selfless, this work is the Lord's. period. It's a perspective that I have gained time and time again. And this week was no exception.

We found some good investigators this week, we found some families. We don't know if they will progress, but we have faith that the Lord's will will be done. And that's enough. We also got punted a ton. And we just keep going and witnessing the miracles that seem to keep on coming. We found this investigator last week and we weren't sure if she would progress or not. Then we had an exchange. Sister Vaipulu went with another sister into our area, I went to the other area. They had a great time with this investigator, Cheryl. Then she told them she wanted to come to church, asked if she was allowed. (disclaimer: This is the NO. 1 indicator that this person is golden) We of course told her she was and so on Sunday we weren't all that surprised to see her there 30 minutes early. I had to play prelude so Sis. Vaipulu sat with her and prepped her for the day. She had SO many questions, and good questions. She told Sis. V that she had read the introduction, testimonies of the witnesses and then the testimony of Joseph Smith in the BoM. Then she said that she couldn't stop reading so she read the entire book of Moroni. Holy Cow!!! We were so amazed. And she just wanted to know so much. During gospel essentials, she was answering the questions more than any of our other, more seasoned, investigators. She is awesome. We're excited for her.

We also had this crazy experience that we know had nothing to do with us. We were at the drug store for Sis. Vaipulu. We were waiting for our turn when this guy walked up. He didn't really look like a Filipino and so of course we start trying to guess what he is (it's a favorite game of ours). Vaips decides to ask him where he's from... in English... well he was from here, and only speaks Cebuano but he was from Spanish ancestry, so he looked Spanish. So he was happy to hear that we actually can speak that as well. Anyway, he was way nice and so we asked if we could come visit his home and share a message he was happy to say yes. we were excited. We got his address and went on our way. Well the next day we were talking to the Sis. Bevans (of the couple) and she was telling us about this man they met who was speaking to them in English who also looked Spanish but he was older. But they had the same address. We assured her it wasn't the same guy, because our guy couldn't speak English and was young. They told us they would give us more information later, they had written it down. Anyway, we went to their house (that was in the middle of literally nowhere) and lo and behold it turns out that the man the Bevans met was the FATHER of the guy we OYMed. Of course. Anyway, they were way excited to see us and were SOOO nice. We had a good chat and a good lesson and then they drove us home because we walked in the scorching heat for about 45min to get there. They were so nice and excited for us to come back and visit again. So another tender mercy.

Then we had an experience that was both a success and a failure all in one. hahaha. We decided to host a film showing, in hopes of finding new investigators. We were showing The Testaments. We made flyers, handed them out around town, gave them to all of our investigators, etc. Well the time came for the movie and NO ONE showed up. All we had were branch members. So we just decided to show the branch members. And it turned out to be an incredible powerful spiritual experience for ALL of them. Most of them had never seen it before. Everyone was in tears and it was just awesome. So while we may not have gained any new investigators, we did provide for the branch to which I say, still missionary work!

So anyway, that is just a bit of a narrative for my week. I love the mission. I love the successes AND the failures because of what I learn from them. It's amazing. I hope that everyone is great, I am!!! Love you all!!!!

Sister Jackson
Conference is the greatest!!!

Well clearly the best part of my week this week was General Conference. Basically it's the best part of my whole year! And this was such a great General Conference.

I had some really specific questions and things I was asking for this conference and I felt that basically every talk was crafted just for me. I think that's how conference always is and should be. I was especially excited to see Brother Matthew Richardson give a talk. I know him really well, he was my professor, session director at EFY, and has been a big spiritual help to me as a young adult. His talk was very direct answer to prayer for me and what a tender mercy. I was shocked at the state of Elder Hales. I had no idea he was so sick and actually didn't recognize him when he started his talk. But his talk was one of the most beautiful I have heard and touched my heart. It reminded me a lot of some of Elder Wirthlin's last talks. More personal testimony than anything else and that was what I needed to hear. I pray that his health returns, but if not, I have no doubt that he is fully trusting the Lord at this time. I was so grateful for this conference. Not only did it give me the boost I needed for these last few months on the mission, but gave me some tools and things that I need for when I come home. I wish we could just have conference every week! What a blessing!

So I was a total idiot last week and forgot to write about the best part of last weekend which was definitely that one of our investigators got baptized! John Mark Pepito. He's 16 and has been basically living at the church for ever because he loves it so much. He was going to seminary, participating in all of the youth activities and just loved the church. When I got here I didn't understand why he hadn't been baptized. Well some of the other missionaries had said that his grandma wouldn't give permission, well I didn't really believe that. So we paid a visit to Grandma. She totally gave permission and was happy he was doing something worthwhile with his life. So we had the go ahead. The teaching was fast because he is SOOO smart and he is always at a church. There were zero concerns. So on October 1 he was baptized. And let me just say it was probably the most spiritual baptism I have been to. Lots of people were there, good support, in fact his grandma actually came to his baptism. Sister Vaipulu and I sang and the spirit was way strong, then our branch president spoke and bore the most powerful testimony. It was awesome and he was SOOOOOOO excited to get baptized. He showed up 2 hours early to set up the whole room, chairs, everything. Such a great kid. I'm so grateful for his example. He is going to make a great leader one day and an amazing missionary.

Well folks, other than that there is not too much to report.This week was a bit slow because Sister Vaipulu was pretty sick, so that got to our work a bit. But it was still good. We're still trying to find that family. We just need families! Pray for us! Love you all!!!

Sister Jackson