Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Amy's June 3rd email!

Magandang umaga/hapon!!! (Good morning/evening!!!)

To answer some questions: 

The people here are rich and poor, but mostly and average of lower middle class. There are small houses and there are big houses. But the people here are SOOO humble!! It's amazing the difference in attitude and receptiveness from the province to the city. We can talk to just about anyone here and they're so nice, they will almost always either let us in or will give us their information for missionaries to go to them. 

Yes, they still call out because I am tall and white, but it's not quite as much in the city. They stare a lot, especially because there are two white ones now, and yes, they are very shocked when I start speaking Tagalog to them. But sometimes it comes in handy. Just earlier we were doing our shopping, and these two workers started talking to me as soon as they found out I could speak Tagalog. I ended up getting their phone numbers and information, and they said we could come share a message with them. Awesome!!

I had heard that the Tagalog here in Mindoro was very deep, so I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to understand a lot. But I've been very surprised to find out that I understand almost everything, and they understand me! Heavenly Father is really blessing me with the gift of tongues. Sometimes it is hard in our apartment because Sister Soliven doesn't speak much English and Sister Milsom doesn't speak much Tagalog, so sometimes I am having to translate and be the middle person. But I'm trying to help Sister Milsom with her Tagalog and Sister Soliven has been practicing her English, so we're still functioning, and people can mostly understand one another. It makes things interesting. :)  Sister Milsom is also a very strong personality and likes to talk and be heard. Sister Soliven is a quiet, reserved sister who loves to listen and have silence. She's having a bit of a hard time having patience with Sister Milsom. I am praying for them and for guidance, and I know we are together this transfer for a reason. I'm so excited to see what Heavenly Father has in mind for us and what He wants to teach us! 

Mom, you asked if there are any deaf? Actually, I met one sister who is Deaf. She studied sign language, so she knows it, but no one else in her family does. They treat her almost as if she's just there and has no purpose. I really feel for her. She always has a huge grin on her face when we come over, and we'll chat a little bit. But then she is told to go take the kids outside and distract them so the others can focus on the lesson. I'm not sure where the balance is. The first time we went there I tried to interpret, but then I would lose the interest of the less-active and couldn't focus on her. And when I would speak, I found it extremely difficult to sign at the same time because the grammar's so different. I'm praying to know what to do.

Wow. Time is flying and there is SO much work to do. We are covering two areas here, and there are so many people to go find and teach!! We are having a hard time finding enough time to get to everyone, and we've actually gone on splits a couple of times to make up some time. We are very blessed here. There are several of the branch missionaries that are very willing and eager to work with us when they can. They know the areas and know where the investigators live, so I could ask them to show me where someone lived if I didn't remember how to get there. They are awesome. 

We are experiencing miracles here in Mindoro. Krisitine Joy, one of our less-active members is starting to have a change of heart. She was baptized several years ago and then fell away. We've gone to her place several times to teach her, and she's receptive, but very closed in. She's only 18 years old and I love her so much!! We felt prompted to teach her about missionary work and suggested that she pray about the decision. The spirit was strong. We shared personal experiences and she still seemed so closed in. One of her best friends is one of the branch missionaries that works with us, so we invited Kristine and her active friend, Remy to work with us missionaries on Sunday. She actually came to church and then she quickly left before we could catch her. We ended up going to her house to pick her up, and she eventually came out in jeans and said she'd work. Time was limited, but she was able to work with us for two appointments. I loved watching her testimony grow as we shared. The first appointment, she just listened and didn't want to say anything. But that was okay. At our second appointment, we read 1 Nephi 9, and focused on the last two verses. The spirit was strong, and Kristine bore her testimony!! On the way back, we were all laughing and having fun, but she was quiet. After a bit she said she just wanted to say thank you to us sisters. She said she really didn't want to work with us earlier. But we were persistent. She said as we shared at the different houses, she started to feel a change in herself and a desire to change her life. She wants to come back to church. She has the desire now!! It's so amazing what missionary work does and what this gospel does!! She is still in my prayers every night along with many of our investigators/ less actives, and I know she will turn her life around, and she will be able to experience that peace and joy that comes from the gospel again. We see so many miracles every day!! That's just one example of a million!

I know this gospel is true. I know that this is the Lord's work, and when we put our trust in Him, miracles happen. We can accomplish anything with His help. The branch here is very weak and unorganized, but with the help of the Lord, it will eventually become stronger and become a ward. I am praying for that day! I love the people here and I love my companions. I love this gospel and how beautifully simple it is. I am constantly being reminded that I am not a perfect teacher, but I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost who guides and teaches. We're just the instruments. The real teacher is the Holy Ghost. He testifies of the truthfulness of our message. He has testified to me, and I know it's true. 

I love you all! I love the scriptures. The Book of Mormon is TRUE. It really does change lives. Keep being amazing and trust that Heavenly Father will help you! Miracles happen!

Sister Harston

Amy's May 26th email! 

Hello ulit my wonderful family!

I received a text from the APs last week saying that the sister I would be training would be a foreigner!! (either American or from the Islands, not Filipino). That would mean it would be a someone who doesn't really know the language. I remember those times. It was tough. So I had to prepare myself to start speaking English again. I think my companion, Sister Suliven was a bit nervous to speak English, because she's still learning it, but because she's so positive, she told me she was super excited.

Sister Milsom, from Australia, came in on Friday!! The couple missionaries in our area drove her from the airport to our apartment. She has an awesome accent. Grabe it was so hard to speak English! haha. I'm sure it sounded really awkward at first, but I've mostly gotten used to it now. :) We have been really busy these last couple of days, trying to explore and figure out the new area that has been added to our area. It's been pretty crazy. I'm really feeling for Sister Milsom. She is so tired from all the walking, and is not used to the heat. She is overwhelmed with the language, especially because she is a talker, and doesn't know how to say hardly anything yet. But she is awesome and is determined to help the investigators with their needs and find out how we can help them progress. She is a very strong willed person, and when she wants to do something or get something done, she just does it. She'll be a blessing here in Mindoro. The branch and district here is very weak, especially in leadership, and they need to be guided in the right direction and strengthened. I'm excited to see this transfer.

I am still working on the area, and am just starting to understand it. Directions have always been one of my weaknesses, and I'm definitely being tested right now. Sister Suliven is awesome and has drawn maps for me and still quizzes me sometimes. She just finished her training program but seems like she's been in the mission for a long time. She is very responsible and mature. She's amazing.

I am loving the people here! I love the people I have met so far, and I just want to give everyone hugs because they are so wonderful!! (Only the sisters of course.)  :)  

Mom, you mentioned that teaching is a great way to drill information into your mind. That is so true. I think that's exactly the reason that Heavenly Father is giving me these opportunities to train! I feel like I'm now going through the training program for myself for the third time! I love it! I learn so much more each time. Heavenly Father knows I need drilling and knows I need repetition to learn something. So even though I'm technically training, I am really going through the training program for the third time now for myself! I am so grateful for Heavenly Father's love for me and for each one of us. He knows each one of us and exactly what we need to learn and grow into the person He knows we can become.

I love this gospel. I love this area right now. It's absolutely beautiful! (I'll have to send pics next week).  I love my companions. I love the people in this branch. I love our investigators and the less actives. I want to be able to bring this gospel to them and help them see how it will change their lives. Earlier this morning in our district meeting, our district leader shared a thought. He said something like, when we have something or experience something great or wonderful, one of the first things we do is share it with our families so they can experience that joy. That's exactly what we do as missionaries! All of us people in the world are brothers and sisters, heavenly siblings--we're all family!! So our biggest desire ought to be to share the thing that makes us the happiest with our brothers and sisters. That's the gospel of Jesus Christ!! It makes so much sense. We must get over ourselves and see them as our brothers and sisters. We must give everyone a chance to accept the gospel in their lives. I love missionary work. It's not always easy, but it is so worth it. I am changing. I feel a difference in my life, and I want that for others. I still have so much more I want to learn, and I am grateful for everything Heavenly Father has taught me so far. I am excited to see what else He has in store for each one of us! :)

I love you all!! Thank you for all your love and support. You have no idea what that means to me. I pray for you often!!

Sister Harston
A Beautiful day for a run on the beach!

My companions!
Amy's May 20th email home! Lot's of new changes in this one!

How is my wonderful family??

Thank you for all your emails! I love you all and am so grateful for all your love and support. Mom, thank you for keeping me updated with all the things around there! I loved hearing all your voices last week. You are all amazing!

Wow, SO much has happened since we last talked and since I wrote last. Transfer day is tomorrow...but I got a surprising call last Friday morning at about 7:30am from the APs (assistants to the mission president). I had no idea what the call was for, but Sister Paloma picked up and they asked to talk to me. They asked me about the area and about my companion (the normal conversational starters) and then told me they had some news for me. I would be transferring! I wasn't really that surprised, but I was pretty curious as to why they called me to let me know so early. Usually we find out if we are transferring on the Tuesday before transfer day (Wednesday). Then they said... I would be transferring to.... MINDORO!!! That's the little island that almost all the missionaries beg to go to sometime in their mission because it's so beautiful. Then they said that I needed to pack my bags and say goodbye to our investigators because the APs would pick me up that night at 8pm and I would sleep at the mission home. My flight was for the next day at 6:05am, so I'd be leaving the mission home around 3:30am to drive to the airport. Grabi! So fast! I was in shock for a bit. I laughed, cried, and so did my companion and kabahay (the other sisters that live in our apartment with us). They are super sweet. I love them all. We had a change of plans for the day and went around to say goodbye to some investigators and less active members. It was really hard to say goodbye. I pray that they will stay strong and will continue to grow closer to their Savior and follow His teachings. The Escueta family was probably the hardest one to say goodbye to. We had actually planned to just drop by and say goodbye, but Sister Marilyn Escueta (the mom) asked us to share a message before we left. I was so touched. They are so amazing. We shared a short message with them and then had to say goodbye. I tried really hard not to cry, but...well... you know me. :) It was even harder to see them cry, especially Sister Escueta. I pray for them that they will continue to progress and that their whole family will eventually be baptized. They deserve the happiness and peace that this gospel brings. I also pray for the new missionary that will be transferred there, that they will love each of the families as much as I did and do all they can to help them. I have full confidence in Sister Paloma that she will continue. She's amazing.

It felt really weird being without a companion when I was picked up Friday night by the APs from our apartment. I was told that I would only be able to bring one suitcase to Mindoro and it had to be 20 kilos or lighter (about 40lbs). I eventually had to buy a large "no weight" bag, and take my black duffle as the carry on. My missionary waist/shoulder bag was my "purse," so I packed it with books until it was about busting at the seams. :)  But I eventually got everything I needed under the right weight limit and Sister DeLaMare showed me to the room where I'd be sleeping. It was HUGE!! I had a huge queen-sized bed with a comforter and tons of pillows all to myself and a walk-in closet and bathroom. There was even air conditioning. I didn't really know what to do with myself. I almost felt like I was afraid to touch anything because it was all so clean and beautiful. It's amazing how my perspective has changed since I've been here. I ended up turning the air con down because I was cold even though I was under the sheet and big comforter. I have a feeling I am going to freeze when it's time to go home. haha.

The Office elders picked me up at 3:30am and drove me to the airport. They gave me the flight plans and dropped me off at the airport. I didn't really know where to go or what to do and neither did they, so I said a quiet prayer and walked inside the big building. I asked a couple people and was pointed in the right direction. I got everything checked in and sat down to wait for my flight. I got to study and write in my journal while I was waiting, so the wait was worth it. The flight was quick (about 30 mins) and I was greeted by the Zone leaders of the Mindoro District just outside of the airport, along with my new companion, Sister Suliven, and Elder and Sister Heywood, a senior missionary couple. We drove to a small bakery and bought some breakfast, then they drove me to our apartment! Driving out of the airport parking lot, we got to see a glimpse of the ocean! Beautiful! Elder Heywood told me to take a good, long look because I wouldn't be seeing it in a long while. It wasn't in our area. We get the rice fields. :) Oh, shucks.

Our apartment is small, but clean looking downstairs. We actually have tile floors downstairs. Upstairs is just cement flooring, and there are three bedrooms, but we just use one of them as our closet and changing room. Our beds and study desks are downstairs because it's so hot upstairs. Mindoro is known for it's brown-outs. So we have a lot of them. There are times when our electricity just goes out so we have no electric fan, lights, or electricity for our refrigerator, so it makes things interesting. It's an adventure!! I love it. We also don't have a sink, but we have a spicket(sp?) in a small enclosed area outside, and a few large basins for washing our dishes and washing our hands. Or we can use the spicket in the bathroom that we use to fill up our bucket for showers. It's so simple, I love these new experiences every transfer. We have to buy our water because the water is not filtered here or safe to drink. But the water that we buy tastes good and fresh, so we are blessed. :)

We actually got permission to go running at about 5:30am to meet some of the other elders in our zone at the beach! It felt so good to jog. It's actually my first time since I left the MTC to actually jog outside, not just in place or up and down the stairs. The air here is so clean! It's completely different from the city where there is always traffic noise and polluted air. It is gorgeous here. The beach still had quite a bit of garbage on it, but it is so much cleaner than the city. I definitely miss the people in the city, but I love the area here in the province. There are no jeepneys here, just tricycles, so we trike a lot. 

We had zone interviews here this last Saturday, the day I arrived, so President and Sister DeLaMare flew out and we had a great few meetings and I got to have another interview with President! I love the interviews with him. He is definitely called of God. I guess I was eager to have another interview for selfish reasons. Whenever President interviews, he always asks if we would like a blessing at the end. I always take advantage of that when I can. The Priesthood authority is so powerful and real. In my interview with him, he told me he had some news for me. He told me that we would be getting one more sister in our companionship next week Friday, and we would also be taking over one of the elders areas. That means whitewashing!! Whitewashing is when an Elders area becomes a sisters area or visa versa. We will be covering two areas-- our own and the area of the elders that will be leaving Mindoro. Next transfer we will be four sisters again, but this transfer we will have us three. Wow. So the last couple of days the elders have been showing us around their area and introducing us to the investigators and less actives. It is going to be a lot of work, but it's what Heavenly Father wants us to do, so we'll do it. I'm a bit overwhelmed with having to learn two new areas, but I was blessed to be able to not be overwhelmed and learn at the pace I need to. Sister Suliven is awesome, too. She has been really patient and is drawing me maps and is always quizzing me as to where the places and people are. 

Then I got a call from the APs yesterday saying they had some news for me. They asked if I knew about the third sister that would be coming in, and I told them that President had told me. Then they said... "You will be training again Sister Harston!" That third missionary will be a brand-new missionary! I'm super excited, but a bit nervous. I'm praying for her! I am still learning the area and the people, and how to be a good missionary. Sometimes I don't understand why Heavenly Father has so much trust in me. He's helped me in the past, so I'm going to put my trust in Him and he'll help me again. I just have to remember to breath, smile, and pray. :)  I am so grateful for my companion Sister Suliven. She is super sweet and super strong. She just finished her training, but she seems much more mature than a new missionary. I love her to death, and I'm having fun getting to know her better. 

I just found out two of the other missionaries that were in my MTC zone are training, too!! Sister Elsmore and Elder Vandyke. I'm way excited for them. They are amazing missionaries. I have such a good relationship with all my MTC zone missionaries. It's always like a family reunion when we see each other at Transfer meetings and temple days and such. :)

I'm sorry I wrote a book, but a lot has happened!! I know this gospel is true, and I love meeting people and seeing and hearing about the changes that the gospel has brought to their lives. I love you all!! 

Sister Harston

Amy's May 13th email home. For those of you who don't know, Missionaries from our church are allowed to call home twice a year: Mother's Day and Christmas. We got to talk to her on mother's day!!

Happy Mother's Day again!

Wow, it was sooo good to hear your voices. Most of you sound the same, but goodness gracious, Christina, you sound so mature now! I honestly had to think twice before I realized it wasn't Stephanie talking. :) Stop growing up! ;)

Mom, Jerry, Tyler, Jessica, Steph, Richie, Christina, Dad! All of you! Thank you for your continual love, prayers, and support. It was so good to hear each of your voices. Tyler, that was super fun chatting sa Tagalog!! Grabi, magaling talaga ka pa rin! You're still way better than me, but I'll get there. :) 

I am really loving the people here. They are so amazing. It's amazing how much love you can have for a complete stranger. When I ask for it, I can really feel the love of our Heavenly Father for each of His children. He wants them to return to Him and come unto His son, Jesus Christ. I love reading the scriptures and keeping a notebook by. This past week my companion has had a bit of a hard time with homesickness, wondering if a mission is really for her, and I was able to share and relate my personal study to her and to our lives. I think it really helped her. She seemed a lot happier after that. There are still times when she really questions it, but I think she is a little more decided now. It is amazing what the spirit can do. Sometimes we have no idea what to say or how to help, but when we put our trust in the Lord, we will always be told what we should say. That is true. It is definitely still a work in progress, but I want to be able to say that I am always worthy to have the spirit with me. In "The Fourth Missionary Talk," one of the quotes in there says something like, "One of the greatest battles you will ever face will be within the silent chambers of your heart. For that is where you choose between your will or God's will." It goes something like that. But it is so true! We just have to give up. We have to dedicate ourselves to Him, and not care about what we want. What does He want me to do? That's all that is important. Then I must do. It sounds so easy! But sometimes it is hard. But I am doing my best and will continue to put my trust in my Heavenly Father that He will strengthen me and fill my mouth with the words that I need to speak. 

Next week is transfer week, so I will email on Tuesday, again. Pday will be on Tuesday this time, and transfers are on Wednesday. We don't know who will be transferring or staying, but we think Sister Abonitalla will be transferring and Sister Codangos will stay and lead their area. I've now been in this area for three transfers, (every transfer is 6 weeks), so it's very likely that I will transfer, too with Sister Paloma staying to lead the area. But we don't know. We might both stay or she might transfer. We shall see. :)

I love you all so much!! Keep being amazing! This gospel is TRUE!!

Sister Harston
Another Short May 6th email!

We actually get a little more time to email! We had an hour before a zone activity, and we get to have our second hour now! :)  So I'll send some pics of our zone activity. We went to a place called Centris Circle and went inside a historical museum about one of the past presidents of the Philippines. There was a big park area and lots of good places for silly pictures. :) 

Love you lots!!
Sister Harston

At the entrance!!

We had some fun trying to get the jumping shots. :)

We tried to line it up so it looked like I was holding the sword.
Here's our whole zone!!

Bunch of silly gooses! :)  We have an awesome zone.

Amy's May 6th email home!!  It's just a short one this time, but pictures are included!

 Hello my fabulous family!

It's going to be a short email this time, but I am still loving missionary work!! Today was our temple day, so that's why I'm writing today instead of yesterday. Sorry I didn't inform you about that last week. I love the temple!! It's always such a good recharger.

Janelle, my mom forwarded your question about the cooking to me. Yes, I get to cook some, but so far not very often. The church members feed us about 3-4 times a week, and we rotate cooking lunch in our apartment.

Time's up! But I love you all and I want you to know that I know this gospel is TRUE!! I love being a missionary and seeing people change. I love you all!!

Sister Harston

p.s. more pics! :)
My companion is so cute! I can put my chin on her head. :)

Me in front of the temple!

All the sisters that live in our apartment outside of the temple! I love these sisters!! From left to right: Me, Sister Codangos, Sister Paloma, and Sister Abonitalla

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Amy's April 28th email home!! Pictures that went along with this email are on the previous blog post. :)

Magandang hapon po!! (Good evening!)

I hope all the pics went through. I had a bunch that I wanted to send this time. It was great to hear from you all. Thank you for all the updates and all the news!! The Harston side is growing and growing!!! Thank you Dad and Steph for all the updates. Amazing. Grandma Harston has got to be just glowing with joy. So many grandkids! So many great-grandkids!! Wow. I love it. :) I am so blessed to have the best family in the world. :)

Mom, you had lots more questions, so I have a lot more answers! 
Yes, we washed clothes by hand, but guess what??? We just got a washing machine!!! Woohooo!! We're pretty excited. It's tiny and cute, but it makes washing a lot faster. We have a little back room downstairs where we hang the clothes. There are some wires strung back there. I'll have to send pics next week. As far as handwashing, we used tubs and buckets, where we would soak our clothes with soap. We have scrub brush and a couple of boards, but I find it easier just to use my hands. It's more effective, and I find it's gentler on the clothes. I've gotten to be a pro. ;)

No, we do not have an oven, just a stove. Our bathroom does not have a bathtub-that's only for the very rich (pretty uncommon), and not shower. We just have a bucket and a water scooper, and we take bucket showers. It can be cold, but it is very refreshing.

Yep, our apartment is buggy. :) We try to keep it under control, but the ants find everything very quickly. We have to store our food in the refrigerator and in sealed containers. We do have cockroaches, too. It's amazing how many cockroaches are here in the city. It is very normal to see cockroaches all over the streets at night. I've mostly just gotten used to it, but we try to keep them out of our apartment as much as possible. They are pretty gross. But we have spray and shoes, so we get rid of them pretty quickly. :)

The deaf man in the picture a couple of weeks ago, Lito, is still in our ward. When us sisters split the area, we stayed in the same ward. So I get to chat with him just about every week. He is desperate for conversation and is is very excited to be able to talk to someone. He knows ASL, but it's a bit different. There are times when I have to ask him to repeat or clarify a sign or two. No one else in the ward knows sign language, so he mostly just gestures with them, and they understand him for the most part. He's great.

I'm not sure about the humidity level, but I know it's high. :) It hasn't rained a whole lot, but we had a crazy random rainstorm the other day. It was clear in the morning, super windy and rainy, and then sunny again. I think that's pretty normal for here. We always have to be armed with our umbrella. If we don't use it for rain, we use it to shield the sun.

Christina, you sound like you are doing AMAZING over there! Keep up the hard work! Your grades are amazing! That Tech Core class sounds complicated, but like a lot of fun. I'm rooting for you for that Geometry grade! Sooo close!  And congrats for the Book of Mormon reading/praying challenge. That is SO awesome. The Book of Mormon has such great power, and I'm seeing it every day.

Grandma and Grandpa Elicker sound super busy!! What a lot of work! I would love to come help out, but...maybe next year. :) Know that I'd be there if I could!

This past week has been a great one. We had the opportunity to have a devotional given by a member of the Area Presidency, Elder Ardern, and his wife. I left the devotional feeling ready to step it up another level and do better! Super inspiring.

The Escueta family is doing great, especially Sister Escueta. She is really feeling the Spirit and has accepted a baptismal date of June 1! Another couple of new investigators came to church!! I love this gospel!! I am really seeing and feeling the changes in myself and in others as we focus on Jesus Christ and focus on bringing others to Him. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that the Bible and the Book of Mormon support each other, creating the fulness of the gospel. I am so grateful for this time to be a missionary for my Heavenly Father, and give him my all. I love my companion, I love the people here, and I love this gospel! I know it's true!! 

I love you all and pray for you.
Sister Harston