Sige let's start with Christmas Eve. So, that morning bright and early Sister Alabanza and I did some service for a few grandmothers. One is a less active member and one is an investigator. What service did we do you ask? We washed their clothes. By hand. For like 3 hours. One of the hours I volunteered to do the water pump......yeah don't really know why I volunteered haha it looked like fun at first. Then after like 5 minutes my arms were hurting. But I was determined so I just kept pumping minding my own business. And then all of the sudden I look up and I had attracted a crowd...hahaha like half of the village was circled around me watching me pump the water. So they started lining up buckets and I just kept pumping away. So basically that day I provided the village water haha. People are very amused by a white American Sister Missionary willing to pump their water and everyone was just staring. Haha then this group of boys came up and screamed in super broken English so it makes it even better, "Who made dat white Sister pump all the water?" Hahaha. These guys are crazy. Let me explain...the village we did the service project in is where most of our less active and investigators live so we are there almost every day. Every night when we are walking through that area we see this group of boys smoking and drinking. Probably around 8 of them and they are all around 15 or 16. Well,while I was pumping they stayed to watch the show too hahaha so I started talking to them. Jokingly I kept inviting them to church knowing that they were probably drunk haha. Two of them are inactive members, 2 are investigators we have taught so they are familiar with our church. The inactives haven't been to church in over 3 years though so we have been trying to teach them but they still don't come to church. Anyways, I got them to help us with washing the clothes though so it was good.. Since that day we kept seeing those boys drinking and drinking literally every night. Haha but I made friends with them so every time we walk through that village now, they all scream my name so it's awesome. All I say back is "magsimba tayo!" Like "Let's go to church!" Hahaha. But guys wait for the best part of the story. So Sunday we are waiting by those church doors, not even remembering this big group of boys. At exactly 1 all the sudden I see 8 boys walking up to the doors.......okay I was hitting Sister Alabanza haha I really couldn't believe it. Happy happy moment :) I was asked to bear my testimony in church on Sunday so I was glad I could testify to them of the importance of coming to church haha and I was staring at them the whole time and they were just nodding their heads so let's hope the message got across :)
So this week, with Christmas and everything, we were invited to lots of family home evenings. Family home evening here in the Philippines = food, food, and more food. Hahaha but I love it. The support of our branch is crazy amazing. We got a new Branch President a few weeks ago because our old one is now District/Stake President. Our Branch President is a returned missionary and he is super involved with the work. He even comes and works with us whenever he has time. And his counselors are super good and supportive. We had a family home evening at each of their houses this week with all of our investigators. We are very VERY grateful for their support! We had a branch Christmas party this week as well. Since everything is better and more fun here in the Philippines, it was super fun of course :) Each group in the church did a performance so it was fun. The Primary one was super cute and guess who the star of it was...Jorel! Hahaha he sang a Christmas song for like 5 minutes straight while the others danced. Want to hear a funny story? At the end, the announcer said there was someone that wanted to do a solo. Hahaha, I look up and guess who is dancing for everyone? JEROME. HAHAHA we were laughing so hard. Don't worry everyone, there is a picture on my Skydrive to prove it :) SO AWESOME. Speaking of Jerome, we taught him a few times this week like always :) He is progressing so much. He keeps asking when he can be baptized which is sad because we can't really answer him. We have talked to President and he is trying to figure out what to do in our unique situation since we don't have any parental consent or information or anything about him. We continue to teach him though and the Branch is doing a good job of making him feel like a member :) This week we gave him a Book of Mormon story book and he almost cried because he was so happy to receive a Christmas gift :) SO STINKING CUTE. So the next day he went around begging for money all day and guess what he bought? Candy for Sister Alabanza and I! Seriously this boy is my inspiration. We are not teaching him, HE IS TEACHING US! I have learned so much from him.
Okay my thought for the week. I've been studying about Christ a little bit extra this week because of Christmas. Never have I appreciated this holiday as much as I did this year. Which is surprising because I am so far away from home and everything I used to know. But I have learned, like really learned, that that's not what it's about. It's all about THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. It's about making Him a reality in our lives. And when we make Him a reality in our lives, we don't do the "right" thing because we feel like we have to. It's about gaining the DESIRE. The desire to be Christlike. It's the desire to do what he wants me to do because I want to. Because His way has become what I am striving for. His way is THE WAY. We should want to do what He would do. Responding as He would in the effort to bring MY life in harmony with HIS. In a book I was reading this week called "Our Search for Happiness" I read this quote that I LOVED: "If you really concentrate on trying to walk the way He walked - loving, caring, serving, and obeying each step of the way - one day you'll look up and discover that His path has led you directly to the throne of God. For that is and ever has been His great purpose and mission: to lead us to our Heavenly Father so we can dwell with Him in His heavenly home." YES. This is what it's all about!!!! It's bringing our life in line with His. It's through HIM, ONLY HIM, that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father again. How great is the blessing? And all they ask of us is to follow what they tell us! And when you think about it, it shouldn't be too hard. Because our Heavenly Father knows everything. He knows what's best for us. And I know that He is ALWAYS there for us. Through our happy times and hard times, He is there. Waiting for us to trust in Him and His great plan. Because His plan is far better than anything we could imagine for ourselves.
Well I will say it again and again, I LOVE MISSIONARY WORK!!! I love this Christmas season, even if it is STILL hot and sweaty. Missions are awesome. I love being a missionary. It is such a great blessing that I treasure so much. I am trying my best to represent our Savior Jesus Christ with everything I've got and then more. Because I know that with Him by my side, all things are possible. That through trusting in Him, I know that He WILL work HIS miracles in these people's lives in whatever way HE chooses. Not always in my way but in HIS WAY. And I know without a doubt His plan is far better than anything I could imagine.
I LOVE YOU ALL!!! AND I HOPE YOU HAD A WONDERFUL, MERRY, SAFE CHRISTMAS!!! And Happy New Year!
Here are some pictures, from the service project on the beach and from one of our family home evenings.