December 30, 2013

Life As A Real Missionary...Part #22

Opening my gift at Zone Conference!


Sister Larsen and me!

July Anne with the Book of Mormon!

Food for the families in need in our ward!

Our amazing bishop and his family!

My Christmas Pj's!

Opening my Christmas presents!

Merry Christmas to me!

Christmas Day lunch!

Christmas lunch with my district!

Thank you Grandma Thomas!

I love my Filipina Companion!

family!

merry christmas and happy new year from the Philippines! you have no idea how wonderful it was to see all of your beautiful faces last week. it was the greatest gift ever. you all look so good! and i love the pictures you sent from christmas! you all look so bright, shiny, and happy. except bowen and dad are frowning in every picture. BOYS. gosh. (; no, i love you all so much. i hope you know that. thank you for all of the gifts mom! i was so blessed this year. thank adam and alene, and my grandma's for me too. all of the packages were great and i felt a lot of love. plus, all of the filipinos enjoyed the candy. (;

don't worry, my week was FULL. we had a dinner appointment on monday night with members, and Brother R-rizz, one of our investigators. he is 12 years old, and is so golden. he LOVES to read as much as me, so we get along well. plus, he loves reading the book of mormon. all the stories about people fighting and stuff really interest him. haha! he is scheduled for baptism at the end of January. he has already attended church three times. and loves it. so he is a strong candidate. (: get this, his mom is a christian, but his father is a muslim! his father has no problem with his son making the decision to be baptized, but he won't let us into his house. we usually teach r-rizz at a member's house. BUT this saturday, he allowed us to come over!!! i don't know what will happen but when we taugh R-rizz, his dad stayed in the next room.  i don't know if he was listening, but it is a step. we are so happy. we have been praying to involve his family more in this decision. so, i pray he continues to allow us inside of his home and that he will listen.  the mom is supportive and i think she will want to sit down as we teach R-rizz and listen. 

on christmas eve, me and sister altea and the two elders in our ward, got the opportunity to choose 5 families in the ward whom we thought needed a christmas meal. we prayed together and thought really hard about it. we chose 5 families whom we felt were in the most need (we all pretty much had chosen the same 5 families, wow), then we all went together to deliver the food. that experience was priceless. they were all SO grateful. they had the biggest smiles with tears streaming down their faces. one of our less-active members, Analyn Nunez, said, "i have been praying to find a way to feed my children this christmas." she literally had no money to FEED them. it was an answer to her prayers. then, guess who came to church yesterday? yes, she did! (: it was a christmas miracle. that experience i will never forget.

after that, our Bishop fed all four of us christmas eve dinner. he has very little, but he shared with us what he had. his family is so sweet. but, he has the NAUGHTIEST children on earth. hahahaha. they make me laugh. we all sang christmas carols together after dinner, and that was the first time i have seen them behave. then i was asked to share my testimony. i talked about my family and showed them pictures. the bishop's wife said, "wow. i don't know how you left a family this awesome." i said "it was hard, but i knew i would see you soon." seeing another mom who works full time and raises her kids at the same time inspired her. she hopes to be a mom like you are mom. and raise her kids as strong as you have in the gospel. thank you for your example to her. she says "thank you for being the kind of woman God wants you to be." (:

on christmas eve, santa happened to bring PJ's for ALL OF US. (; (me and sister marcucci spent a lot of time helping "Santa" this year.) sister marcucci and i shared our "american" family christmas traditions with our filipina companions.  we all got pajamas (just like at our house)! then we all slept in the same room too (just like at home). haha i had too! here in the philippines, the christmas tradition is that you stay up till midnight on christmas eve, then at midnight you open presents and eat and talk all morning! unfortunately, we are missionaries so we couldn't do that. but somehow santa still came! (and he was REAL tired this year.) hahaha me and sister marcucci woke up at 2 am and wrapped some of our presents for sister clarin and sister altea, cause they had none under the tree except the gift you sent to sister altea. they were so ECSTATIC! christmas morning was a miracle at our home. they both said they had never had so many gifts with their names on them before. that was the greatest thing ever. watching their faces light up as they opened a simple box of candy was amazing. i loved watching sister altea open the gift from you guys! she had the BIGGEST smile. she loved it. i can't wait for you to see the pictures. it was amazing. it really brought real christmas happiness. definitely one of the best christmas mornings ever!

after that, the ZL's and another two elders who live nearby, came over and we all made a christmas breakfast. pancakes, french toast, smoothies, egg casserole, and mangoes! it was quite a feast. we had fun. it tasted yummy!

then me, sister altea, and the elders from our ward had a lunch appointment with sister melanie. she is a recently returned RM in our ward. she is amazing! seriously. she cooked us an awesome meal complete with rice, chicken, spaghetti (they think that's what americans eat), and gulay (vegatables). then we gave her a stocking full of american candies! haha she loved the reese's peanut butter cups. (: we shared a christmas message and watched some of the bible videos. it was really awesome.

THEN, we had ANOTHER meal appointment. haha! we went to a member's house with some of the other missionaries in our zone. this food was AWESOME. more spaghetti (like i said, they think that's an american dish), chicken adobo (one of my favorites) fruit, and homemade fried rice. but this rice was way better than even PF changs fried rice! i ate plenty of that and enjoyed my large food baby for hours afterwards. hahaha! we definitely did not go hungry!

christmas was a lot of fun. we just talked and ate and shared messages of Christ all day. oh man. by the time we returned home, the fireworks started. yes, here they celebrate christmas with fireworks! haha we heard them all night! (; it was awesome.

anyway! this week was great! one i will always remember. how grateful i am for my family and for the influence you have on these people out here. you are the example for so many! (:

sister july anne is progressing. she loves reading the book of mormon and she keeps every commitment we give her. but, she has yet to attend church. and she is still living with her boyfriend, who is a less active member. he won't let us teach him at all. ughhh. he won't marry her. but she doesn't have enough money to move out and live on her own. and her family lives in a completely different province, so she would be so far away. we aren't sure how to help her yet. but we are praying for her really hard. our fast this next sunday will be for her.

brother r-rizz. he is 12 and reminds me a lot of Bowen. haha he is so cute! he LOVES the young men's program. he goes to activities and attends church actively now. we are so excited for him to enter the waters of baptism this month, and we really hope his family will get involved and let us teach them. he is an awesome kid.

brother sunday diaz. he is a former investigator that never made it into our area book. finding him was a pure accident on our part, but looking back, we can see that the Lord had really led us to him. he has SO much faith. he is only 26 but already has three kids. he got married at 20, which is unusual here.  they had three adorable kids, and then she got hired to work "abroad." that happens to a lot of people here. it is the only way they can make money. so, she works abroad, and he takes care of the little kids. he is super christian and is looking for an atmosphere for his children to learn good morals. PERFECT. they have attended church twice, and the kids love primary. brother sunday participates in lessons, and reads the book of mormon. he is scheduled for January 18. i really hope he continues to keep the faith and progress.

we are teaching a few others, but those are our progressing investigators. i love them all so  much!!!

our ward has it's struggles, but the members are really kind and loving to the missionaries. in fact, tonight, we have an FHE scheduled with a member, Sister Taan, and Brother Sunday's family! they live near each other so she offered her house. we are cooking and planning a lesson on the  plan of salvation. i can't wait. (: sister taan is awesome. she has had a lot of tradgedy in her life, but is still so strong. she lost her husband and her oldest daughter in the same year. but she has never doubted her faith. i look up to her a lot.

we have one less active family we are teaching, the Gabuyo family. actually, it is two families, two brothers who live next to each other. they are both less active. but right when we arrived in this area, one of their other brother's died. we attended the funeral service and shared with them a lesson on the plan of salvation. since then they have allowed us to teach them! they haven't let missionaries in their homes in years! it is a miracle. both brothers and their families have attended church two weeks in a row. (: we have a "movie night" scheduled with them this week. we are going to share a video about eternal families with them. which is perfect since they are all now preparing to be sealed in the temple this coming year. (:  sweeeeeeeet!

miracles are everywhere! i can't even believe the things i am witnessing here. i don't do much, i am just the instrument. the Lord is working miracles in ways i could have never imagined. what a blessing it is to be here. this was one of the greatest and most memorable Christmases of my life. i can't wait to see what happens during this next year. it's exciting!

another miracle. last year, the mission goal was to have 1,350 baptisms by December 30th. President Martino was nervous that it wouldn't get reached because we have been low in numbers this last month. but guess what? our mission EXCEEDED it. we achieved 1,370 baptisms! 1,370 souls who came closer to Christ and received his Gospel! isn't that a miracle? our whole mission is celebrating. we have so much to be thankful for.

i love you all. thank you for your constant support and love. i am truly blessed.

also. thank you for all the christmas presents. i love them. (: i could still use a black skirt.  if you happen to come across a plain black, loose, flowy skirt, it is really needed. 

but. thank you for everything. (: the sisters in the house are all enjoying the gifts with me. haha!

i love you all!

love you.

-sister thomas

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