May 19, 2014

Life As A Real Missionary...Part #41

Hello Family,
So sorry this email is coming in so late. We had an awesome zone activity earlier this morning and with elders being in charge, it started and ended late. Haha, you know my issues with being on schedule so the time delays can really cause me stress, but i am learning how to just roll with the punches. (:

The activity was really educational.  We went to the "Death March Shrine" in Capas, Tarlac. It was so cool. The Shrine is a memorial dedicated to the U.S. and Filipino soldiers who suffered or died during the Bataan Death March.  The Bataan Death March happened during WWII.  It was the forcible transfer by the Japanese Army of 60,000 - 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war after the the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines. There were thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war that died before they could reach their destination at Camp O'Donnell.  The 80 mile march included physical abuse and murder of the prisoners of war.  It resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by a military commission to be a Japanese war crime. I don't know too much more about the story, but I do know that it involved alot of heroic Filipinos and Americans. There were 31,000 people killed and every name is written in stone at the Shrine. It was very sober and quiet at the memorial and I walked around for the first little while and just read the names. 31,000 names of people who gave their life to save others. It brought me back to the one person who gave His life to save us all.

With all that I have experienced and learned in the Philippines while on my mission, nothing can replace the lesson I have learned about the Atonement. The Atonement truly amazes me and still I don't understand it fully. I am not sure I ever will. but, I do know that because of Him all of those prisoners of war who have their names written in stone will be resurrected into their perfect state.  Because of Christ, all of us have that opportunity. It doesn't matter how we lived or how we died, we will all get that beautiful gift some day.

Then of course, there is the other part. The part that is based on us and what we did here on earth. I feel like I have spent too much time worrying about such petty things before now, things that weren't essential for my eternal salvation. Things that Satan tries to get us to worry about to distract us. However, serving in this area of Concepcion has taught me to rely on the Lord. With that, my eyes have been opened in such a huge way! How amazing it is that we have the Atonement to "fix us" and mold us into the people the Lord knows we can be. It's beautiful isn't it?  I love that I can share the beauty of the Atonement with so many.  It truly is remarkable when those we teach have their eyes opened too!

This week is transfers. I don't know where I am going, but I will be transferring to a new area this thursday (at least according to President Martino). I thought I was going to be all sorts of excited cause this area is and has been so hard.  By far my most difficult.  But I am feeling sad. I don't know why I am full of conflicting emotionis.  I have struggled here, but I have also learned and grown so much. I have changed so much. I feel like I am leaving a little piece of myself in this place, with these  beautiful people. Saying goodbye to the people will be hard. I have grown to love them so much. I shared a lesson with the Cumuyog family the other night, and we all cried as I said that I might never see them again on this earth, but I will see them in the Celestial Kingdom...right? Hahaha...we all laughed. But they did promise me that they would make it there, despite all the trials.  I promised too.  It is a promise we all best keep!!

This week has been good. Brother Reynold passed his baptismal interview, and will be getting baptized this Saturday.  Woo hoo!  I am so happy for him!   He has truly worked hard and has come so far.  Too bad I will be gone (I am sad about this).  :( But it's okay. He promised me he would never stop doing "all the things in the Lord's true church." He is so excited! I am very excited for for him. He has so much potential to be a strong leader here in this ward. I hope he is blessed with many opportunities. 

I am going to miss Sister Peralta. She is the greatest person I know and I love her so much. We have grown really close through our many trials. She has so many wonderful things ahead of her! Haha! I am excited to see what she does. Training her has been one of the best experiences and I have learned so much.

Other than that there is not much to say. I am doing well. There are still some struggles, but that is normal and part of being on a mission. I am happy here. I loved seeing all of your faces last week. You are all so gorgeous and grown up looking. I can't even believe Bowen. Gosh, he is soooooo big. Where has the time gone? Unfortunately, there are no more skyping sessions for us before I return home.  But these next SEVEN months I am sure will fly for me. I am not sure i am ready for that. I am not sure I am ready to face real life and all it's heartaches and problems!! There is still so much to do here and it doesn't seem like there is enough time left to do it.  I am working on it, however!

I love you all so much. I pray for you all the time. Send my love to Brooklyn.  She is in my prayers.  Send my love to Joey. I miss that kid.

Have a good week.

Sister Thomas

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