March 10, 2014

Life As A Real Missionary...Part #32

Hello Family!

How is everyone doing? Sorry this email is coming in so late, we had a zone activity this morning. we went up and visited the Tarlac Monestary. It was awesome and so beautiful! They have a giant statue of Christ that looks like the one in Rio (well, except not quite as grand). We all went up and had a really spiritual activity and studied the Savior. It was really cool. I always feel that gatherings with missionaries brings a unique spirit. After, we heard all the monks singing from the cathedral. We all just sat and listened, in the mountains, near the statue of our Savior. Needless to say, it was a great way to start off the week feeling stronger and spiritually energized.

Other than that, this last week was normal. Nothing much happened. I think Sister Peralta has decided to stay, for now. I really hope she does, she is an amazing missionary. Seriously, she came prepared to teach the gospel. I don't have to do much to train her. She is just so homesick, but she has been trying hard to not let the homesickness get the best of her. She doesn't feel it so much when we are out working, it is just when we are at home. But, she is trying and I praise her efforts. I can't even imagine how hard it would be if I was serving just 2 hours away from my home. I might just jump on a bus and visit my family on pday! Fortunately, the Lord knew that, so he sent me halfway around the world. He knows me all too well.

The work is good.  I love this area.  Of course, we experience a lot of rejection. Especially now because of the time of year. It is getting close to the Easter holiday, and so in the Philippines, that means it is near "Holy Week." I don't even think I could explain this holiday to you all properly, go Google it or something or ask Griffin Harris about it. Then you will know what I have been witnessing and will continue to witness throughout this month. Holy Week is a Catholic holiday and even the most undevoted Catholics become devoted at this time of year. They scourge themselves with a whip. They tell me this is done by taking off their shirts, walking barefooted under a midday sun and flagging themselves bloody with ropes and broken pieces of glass attached with strings to bamboo sticks. They do this as a means of atonement or payback for their sins and weaknesses.  This is commonly practiced in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac (where I am at), Rizal and practically all over the Tagalog speaking regions.  So, apparently, I am going to be seeing men and women whip themselves and give themselves 50 lashes, in public, as punishment for their sins (this is voluntary, of course) and there will be one or two people that will be literally crucified. They get nailed to a cross and hung in public. In this way, their families will be cleansed of sin and saved. But don't worry, nobody dies. They get pulled down right after and are sent to the hospital.  This is called the "Siete Palabras" (The Seven Last Words) of Angeles City.  It is a reenactment of Christ's crucifixion, the play depicts the sufferings of Jesus Christ from when Pilate sentenced Him to the hands of the Roman soldiers, up to his crucifixion, and later, his death. This is re-enacted in a colorful street play with dozens of men carrying wooden crosses  and getting their backs whipped until they bleed.  The Episcopalians and Roman Catholics do this simultaneously. Then the next week there is a giant carnival where all the rides and liquor are free! YAY! Happy Holy Week!

I am just grateful that I have the knowledge of the Gospel.  I know that Christ suffered for our sins and the Atonement can heal us.  He died and rose again so that we could overcome death. I thank our Heavenly Father every night for giving me this great knowledge. Look how lost the world has become without it? Although I have some fears regarding this holiday, the bishop told me "to get my camera ready!" Hahahaha!  I will send some crazy pictures!

Everyone with a baptism date is on board still. Aaron and Irene will be baptized on the 22nd. They are both super prepared and I can't wait for them to become a member of this true church. They are excited too. Both have made big changes in their lives.

Micheal Macalipay has a baptism date set for the 29th. He is a special spirit and I love him so much. His mind has not developed the same way as most. He is a little slow, and has never received an education or help with his difficulties. Poverty has really kept him from developing socially. But he loves coming to church and despite the long trip, he walks to church every Sunday. He speaks very little Tagalog, he speaks mostly Kampanpagan, so we always have to have a member with us who can translate. It works well though. He loves the missionaries and the members have been so good to him. One member even gave him a white polo shirt to wear to church! He was so proud on Sunday when he showed me his white shirt, he had the biggest smile on his face! It was sweet. I am excited for him too! 

Missionary work is hard work. But, it is rewarding.  Training my new anak is also hard work! But, I make sure we have some fun while we work hard.  Laughing is good!  Soooooo...we are keeping the faith and also working many hours with the less-active members.  

I miss you all dearly, but I know I have my family for eternity, so 18 months really is not a long time to be away. I can't believe how grown up everyone looks, however. Bowen is really changing and big. Like, how did that happen? Courtney and Hannah are beautiful, as usual and they have cute and styled hair.  Someday my hair will be styled again.  Haha!

I am happy that Bowen and mom and dad got their letters! They tell me two weeks at the post office, but that is not really accurate. I still haven't received my package, but I left the mission office this morning just as Elder woodruff was pulling in from the post office, so it could be there now. I go back in on thursday for zone conference so hopefully, it will be there then. (:

I love you all so much and pray for your daily walks of life to be happy and safe. I am happy to know that grandpa is doing better and is now home. I pray for him too. Julie and Wayne and their cute baby look so good in the picture that you sent of them visiting grandpa.  Grabbbiii. Mabaliss talaga.

Anyways, keep being the amazing Thomas family. I love you to the ends of the earth and back.

Mahal ko kayo.

-Sister Thomas

Zone Activity
Me and Sister Peralta

Sister Peralta, Sister Fabros (Hurrah, she's in my zone), Sister Marcucci (Reunited, she's in my zone too), and me!

She is the best companion!

Look at the view from the top!

The beautiful Christ statue 

Elder Thomas and Sister Thomas

I just this girl!

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