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
Lots and Lots of Pictures!!!

Amy's Apartment!

One of the Upstairs Study rooms

An upstairs CR (comfort room, or bathroom)
Kabahay! (All the sisters that live in the same house)
I made pasta salad! It was yummy, and the sisters were excited to try it. :) 

Quezon City South district!

Dinner at the Ugay's!

Halo halo! Yum!

Most places aren't like this, but this is one area we go to in order to reach some squatters. You'll have to ask Tyler about them. I don't know if he had any in his mission, but it's hard to believe people live like like that.

This is the way up and down to the squatters from this side of the street. The ladder is fairly new. Before we had to jump and climb. It made things fun. :)

My companion, Sister Paloma is so cute and small! She's awesome. :)

Amy's April 22nd email home!! Plus Pictures!

Hello again!
Mom, you asked if I could describe my living conditions. We live in an apartment a little out of the way of the major city, so it's not too noisy. I'll try to take a picture of it sometime. It's best to take pictures when there aren't any people around so we don't look like tourists, especially me as the American. We will try to find the best time to take them. :)  Our apartment is pretty big actually. The first floor is open, big enough for a couple of cars, but we use it wash our laundry. (Side note, we heard that we will be getting a laundry machine soon!! We're super excited! By the end of this year all the sister missionary apartments will have washing machines. We're so spoiled!!) We walk up some stairs to our front door, and walk into a big room. There we have our kitchen area, (counters, sink, refrigerator, and stove), our small table where we eat, and our beds off to the side. We have bunkbeds and all four of us sisters sleep there. We have our two separate study rooms upstairs, and an extra small room where we keep our clothes. There is a total of three usable bathrooms. We are truly spoiled. I now apply Off lotion every day and night, (mosquito lotion), because the mosquitoes really like me. I must have really sweet blood. :) We use electric fans at night, but often still wake up sweating. We are always sweating. It's above 100 degrees here now almost every day, but still beautiful! :)
You asked about exercise. I try to exercise at least 4 times a week. I would love to go jogging sometime, but our area isn't the best for it. The pollution here is thick, not the most ideal for jogging and breathing hard outside. But I often run up and down the stairs in the apartment, do jumping jacks, or jog in place. I use that exercise gadget that I bought before, too. Sometimes it's hard to motivate myself to exercise because it's so hot, but I am always grateful when I do.

I hope that answers your questions! :)

This week has been amazing. I don't have a whole lot of time this week to write, but I have to tell you missionary work is amazing!! I told you a little last week about our area. It's pretty big, and there haven't been that many investigators. Sister Paloma and I are basically starting over. We turned to our area book and found some former investigators. We decided to revisit some of them, and start opening our mouths to talk to as many people as the Lord put in our path. The thought of starting conversations with complete strangers has always been a struggle for me, especially in a language that I don't feel completely fluent in. But when you think about the real reason we're out here on our missions, and on this Earth, how can we not open our mouths? We have a message that will change people's lives, and it gives us purpose. We are literally Heavenly Father's children. We lived with Him before. He has a plan for us, and we have a purpose here on Earth. Jesus Christ is central to God's plan. He suffered and died for us to overcome physical and spiritual death. When we repent, we can become purified through Him. Our Heavenly Fatehr has given us a way to learn and grow, make choices, and establish families. Nothing in God's plan in temporary. We can be with our families forever, and we have a sure way to become firm and steadfast in this crazy world of shifting values. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to true happiness, and the way to eternal life. Christ's church has been restored to the earth through another prophet, Joseph Smith. Through him, Christ established His church on the earth again. God restored His authority again to the earth, and we have it today! The fullness of the gospel has been restored! Doesn't that just make you excited?? The Book of Mormon is something we can physically hold in our hands and read and pray about it. It was translated by Joseph Smith, and it is evidence that this gospel is true! All we have to do is read it and pray about it, and we will know if it's true or not. Heavenly Father always answers our prayers. love this gospel! It's so simple!  

We have met several people this week that have been prepared by the Lord. It's obvious. Missionary work is so wonderful! I love talking to the people. Sure, there are those who have no interest, but we are planting seeds. I don't want to miss any opportunities to share it with others. It's definitely a learning process, but it's fun. We've had some really awkward conversations, and some really amazing ones. :) It's amazing though when you realize how much help you can receive when you put your trust in the Lord. He really is my strength. When we are prepared, we are truly given the words that we shall say. All we have to do is open our ears and mouth.

I love you all, and hope you have a fantastic week! I'll do the same!

Sister Harston 

1. Our district! Someone said something funny, so we're all laughing.
2. Most of the sister missionaries in our zone! Lots of sisters!
3. Me, and a couple of members in our ward at the church! (My companion was taking the picture. Don't worry, she didn't leave me!) :)


Amy's April 15th email home!! Plus Pictures!

Hello again my wonderful family and friends!! 

So yes, transfers happened. We added one more sister to our apartment, Sister Codangos (now companions with Sister Abonitalla, and I am now officially companions with Sister Paloma. So we are continuing the second half of the 12 week training program for her. She is super magaling (skilled) though, so I feel like she's training me sometimes. I am super excited for this transfer though. It feels good to be in a twosome. Threesomes can be awesome, too, but they can also be very challenging. Sister Paloma and I have set some good goals, and we are very open with each other. Our area, New Manila and Galas, is a very challenging area. Last transfer we were combined with two other areas, so we had a lot of appointments. Right now we have two investigators in our areas, and neither of them are really progressing as well as we'd like. They have a hard time keeping commitments. Jessica, you mentioned some of the hardest times in your mission were when the people you loved so much stopped progressing because of their agency. You are so right. It is very sad and sometimes frustrating because we can see what a wonderful life they would have with the gospel in their lives and how much happier they would be, but they struggle to just take a small step of faith. We have a few less-actives in our area, but they aren't progressing very well, either. I feel like the past missionaries in this area were a bit relaxed and most of the less-actives see missionaries just as friends who they can relax and hang out with. We're trying to change the feeling of the area, so it's taking some patience, hard work, and prayers. This transfer is going to take a lot of faith and prayers and fasting. I know there are people here that are ready to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, we just have to find them. Heavenly Father is preparing His children to hear the gospel. We have come across several people already that said they'd be willing to listen to our message. Some are sincere, some are just being nice, and we get to put our trust in Heavenly Father to be guided to the truly sincere people. Yes, it's very hot and we're sweating tons every day, and often walk a ton, but the work is still beautiful and fun. We are missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the restored church with the fullness of the gospel here on the Earth! Sure, it's not easy to walk a long ways and then be punted, walk another long ways and then be punted again, but I'll take it and it is worth it because of the people we meet in between. There are no accidents. The Holy Ghost is real, and I am learning how to listen and follow His promptings. Heavenly Father loves each one of His children so much.

General Conference was amazing as usual. It is so amazing to listen to the Prophet of God and think, "His words are literally the words of God being spoken to us."  It's not just some person speaking, but it is Heavenly Father speaking through his holy prophets!! "  "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38). I love how incredibly clear Heavenly Father's instruction is to us. He is straightforward and there is no way of misunderstanding. God loves us and corrects us. He guides us and directs us. We are sooo blessed!! God doesn't change. His gospel doesn't change, but times do. We receive further instruction and protection from Him through His living prophets. I am so grateful for this gospel.

I am so grateful to be a missionary for Jesus Christ's church and to be His representative. It feels so amazing to be able to share my testimony with my brothers and sisters every day.   

I love you all and continue to pray for you.

Sister Harston
1. Us sisters at a Japanese restaurant, 'Zensho.'  The Ugay family took us sisters out to dinner for Sis. Ugay's bday! We are so spoiled/blessed.
2. Tatay Jun's baptism!!

Amy's April 8th email home!!

Hello my amazing family.

I am so blessed. Not only do I get to live here and serve here in the Philippines, teach about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and feel a great love for the people here, I also have an amazing supportive family over there in the US. I was so thrilled to see so many emails from you all. I have the best family in the world. I have to let you know you are all in my prayers every night. Jessica, I want to let you know you are included, too. :) And I'll definitely include your family, too. 

Thank you for all the wonderful pictures!! I have such a beautiful family! I haven't been gone that long, but everyone's looking so beautiful/handsome and all grown up! It looks like you had a blast this past weekend up at Grandma and Grandpa's house for the late Easter celebration. I especially loved the silly pic of Christina and Luke. It really shows their personalities. :)

So transfers are this week. We found out earlier this morning that none of us are transferring, but we'll be getting one more sister again! We'll be two separate areas again, so we won't have to juggle two separate areas now. That will be nice. We don't know who will be getting the new sister as a companion, but one of us will continue being companions with Sister Paloma and the other will get a new companion. This past week it has almost felt like we were two separate areas because we were able to go on splits many times! We had some very masipug (dilligent) ward members who were able to work with us. This past Sunday we had so many people want to work with us that we were able to split three ways and triple our work! The members are awesome.

This past week we had the baptism of Brother Mario (Jun) DeOcampo!! (I'll try to send some pics). He is just GLOWING with the spirit! He is so sincere, and so willing to do whatever the Lord asks of him. He had the biggest smile on his face!! It was a sweet experience. He feels so welcome and wants to share his newly found joy with others. A family in our ward invited their uncle to church this past Sunday who is not yet a member. Tatay Jun was so excited to see someone new at church. They immediately became friends, and Tatay Joshua, the new brother, felt very welcome. We've now taught him a couple of times, and he is very receptive. Yay!

I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We had Zone Training earlier this morning and watched a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the Provo MTC a while back. It was powerful. As missionaries, we are teachers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been called of God through His living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. 

General Conference will be broadcasted for us this coming Saturday and Sunday. I can't wait! From all your comments, it sounds like it was amazing. We are so blessed to have a modern day prophet to lead and guide us today through revelation, just as they did in old times. God does not change. He loves us and wants us to be able to return to His presence with our families. People and times change, but God does not. We need living prophets and apostles who hold the priesthood (or the authority to act in God's name) to guide our families in these trying and changing times. God knows what we need more than we do. He knows us individually. As we listen to the latter day prophets and apostles we can receive personal revelation for our lives! Their words are the words of God!! That is so amazing to me. God truly loves His children. This church is true!!  :)

I love you all so much and thank you for all your prayers, love, and support. I can't express my gratitude sufficiently. I love you all.

Sister Harston

Amy's April 2nd email home!!

Hello my wonderful family! 

I always love reading all the emails and hearing about how everyone is doing. I am so blessed! Mom, thank you for all the pics! I loved them! 

Christina, holy smokies stop growing up!! ;) You are so tall!! And so grown up looking already! Your face has matured in these past months. Gorgeous!! I had to brag and show the pics mom sent me to my comps. They said "Matankad siya!" (She's tall!) Haha. You're taller than me now! But more gorgeous than ever! I'm proud to call you my sister. :) Love ya!

It sounds like there's been a lot of fun going on over there. I'm glad you had some time to relax and enjoy for a bit. You definitely all deserve it. 

We got to go to the temple this morning! It was beautiful and a great boost. I love the temple.

Transfers are next week. One of us may transfer, or we may all stay. We may get another sister and become two companionships again, or we may stay a threesome. We'll see! 

This past Sunday was Easter! Because it was the 5th Sunday of the month, our bishop asked us to give talks and teach Sunday school. Sister Abonitalla and I each gave talks and then Sister Paloma led the Sunday school lesson. It was really fun preparing for the talk this past week. Bishop asked us to relate our talks to the Easter message and to missionary work. I chose to talk about "Discipleship" and what that meant. I used the general conference talk by Elder Holland called "The First Great Commandment," or something like that. We are blessed with so much! Christ atoned for our sins and died for us, overcoming spiritual death and physical death. Because of this, we can return to our Heavenly Father's presence if we do our part. We must have faith in him, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then endure to the end. That's it!  It is so incredibly simple, and so beautiful.  As mortal people, we make mistakes and sin. But we also know that "no unclean thing can enter into the presence of God." If there was no atonement made, we would be helpless and hopeless.there would be no way to return in our perfect Father's presence. But we can!! With our families, too! He is so merciful! With this kind of knowledge, how can we not share it with others? There are so many people that are ready to hear and accept the gospel. We can become true disciples, or followers of Christ by "Feed[ing His] sheep." 

Tatay Jun's baptism is this Saturday!! He is so excited and we are too!! His testimony is amazing. He is willing to do anything in order to become "in-line" with the teachings of Jesus Christ's gospel. He shared with us something this past week. He's 75 now and his neighbors have been teasing him a lot for listening to us "Mormon Sisters." He is confident and has not been afraid or ashamed to tell them, "I'm getting baptized on Saturday. I'm going to be a Mormon because I know it's true." Wow. He is so amazing. He is diligent in his reading of the Book of Mormon, and takes notes and underlines. He comes with questions to the lessons, and has recognized so many blessings in his life. I am learning so much from him. He's learning a ton, but I feel like I'm learning more from him than he's learning from us. He is amazing.

I love missionary work. It is definitely not easy, and Satan tries to tempt us a lot. He is active in trying to influence God's children away from the gospel, and works double time on the missionaries, too. But the work will go forward!! "No unhallowed hand can stop this work!" I am so grateful for this time to give my all to my Savior and my Heavenly Father. It can be so hard to give up your will for God's, but when we do, we are blessed sooo much!! I still have sooo much to learn. I am learning to trust in my Savior.

I love you all! You're in my prayers!

Sister Harston

pics: 1. Pic of us sisters at our zone activity last week! Ready for Volleyball!
             Sister Dickson, Sister Abonitalla, Sister Paloma, Me!

         2. pic of us sisters and Lito, the deaf man in our ward
         3. pic of our zone!

Amy's March 25th email home!!

Happy Easter from the Philippines!! 

It's amazing how quickly time flies out here. I think time must be faster here in the Philippines than it is over there in the US. It sure feels like it.

Before I forget--next week we have our temple day and the following week is transfers again, so I'll be writing a day later than usual those weeks as a heads up. 

Earlier, our zone had our zone activity! We went to a local chapel that had a court and played volleyball and ate some delicious food that we had all brought. We did it potluck style, with one or two companionships bringing rice while the rest of us brought different ulam. Sarap! We realized though that we forgot to bring plates and utensils, so we got creative. We used the lids of the different containers as plates and went Filipino style by eating with our hands! There is a specific art to eating with your hands-Tyler knows what I'm talking about. :) It was hot outside, but we had fun playing volleyball.

This past Saturday was the 171st Anniversary of the Relief Society Organization! Our ward had a special activity for all the relief society women in the ward, and had hilot (massage), and a couple of other small classes/workshops. Our relief society president asked if I could teach a class of basic sign language. It was a lot of fun!! Although the turnout was fairly small to the activity, they all seemed to enjoy themselves. I taught them the very basics and then taught them "Love One Another" in sign. 

We have been blessed to participate in a couple FHE's with a couple different families, and it's been a lot of fun. It's always the best when the whole family is there. We stuff as many people into the houses as we can. Fun stuff. :) It's a fantastic way to unite families. I would definitely encourage anyone to have FHE in their homes with their families each week, or at least as often as possible. But make it a priority! I have wonderful memories of when we would hold FHE in our home. They are memories I treasure, and I want that for these families. They are fun, sometimes silly, and spiritual. It is one way to help bond families together, and it's simple!

It sounds like you've had some wonderful times over there!! I'm glad to hear Mom and Jerry that you were able to take some time off work to have a little fun. You definitely deserve it. It's important to remember to take some time to slow down and to spend time with family, especially. Memories are being created! I am realizing more and more every day how very blessed I am with the family I have. I know we all have our problems, but I am sooo blessed!! Families are the key to Heavenly Father's gospel. It is the place where gospel principles are established, and where children learn to trust in Heavenly Father. When they are guided and raised in homes built on the gospel, they are much better prepared to face the world and to be on their own. We must teach our children to read and study the scriptures every day, pray every day, and to live the gospel to the best of their ability. They learn from our examples. As we go from house to house, we see all kinds of different rearing styles. When the children feel their parents and Heavenly Father's love for them and have the gospel in their lives, they are usually more well behaved. This gospel is amazing!

Mom, you mentioned how tracting would be difficult. Unfortunately we didn't have time to tract at all this past week, but hopefully we will be able to work with members and split to work in both areas. Then we'll be able to go tracting again. I actually have enjoyed the experiences that I've had so far. You said not to get discouraged if they reject us. I remember one of the wives of the MTC presidency spoke at a fireside. She was talking about always having a positive attitude and making the hard times into positive ones. One example she shared was about tracting. She said something like: "If you get a door slammed in your face, think, "Oh, what a nice little breeze!" and then move on!" I like that. President DeLaMare encouraged us this past week to look for the tender mercies in our life. I have noticed a lot of blessings in my life. I'd encourage everyone to do the same. :)

We are still working with Tatay Jun, and his baptism date is April 6! I love it whenever we go over there because he is soooo receptive. We went to his tiny humble home yesterday and planned to teach him about the 3 Kingdoms in the Plan of Salvation. After we had chatted a little bit, we asked him if he had read his reading assignment in the pamphlet about the 3 Kingdoms, and if he had any questions before we began our lesson. He said he had read the assignment and didn't have any questions but told us we could ask HIM questions!! Astig si Tatay! (Tatay is awesome!) He came super prepared and eager to have us test his knowledge. He had more questions as we taught, and we had a good discussion. He gets so excited when we teach him, and he's willing to do anything he needs to do in order to have the gospel in his life always. His faith is amazing, and he really understands the role of Christ's atonement in his life. I am learning so much from him and from his humility. 

Dad, thank you for the quote from Elder Nash's talk. I really like that-- "Live every moment on purpose." Thank you. And Mom, thank you for your quotes and scriptures. They are always what I need to hear. Your power of discernment is amazing! :) 

Christina, thank you for your billion smilie faces! Haha. They make me smile every time. If you didn't sign out with your name, I would definitely still know which email was yours. ;)  Love you silly goose. You sound like you had a bast this past week.

Brother and Sister Taylor, thank you for your sweet email. You are so right. I am finding out for myself that during the hardest times, I am learning the most--about myself, and about who my Heavenly Father wants me to be. 

Tyler--so you finally got a pic to Mom? ;P Ayos! Masaya talaga si Mom. haha, Sinabi niya na excited siya na nakatanggap ng picture mo. Paki salamat kay Jessica. ;) ...at sa iyo din I suppose. haha.  Gwapo ka ba?  [Tyler's translation:  

So you finally got a pic to Mom? ;) Great! Mom's really happy. She said she was excited that got your picture. Tell Jessica thanks ;)...and yourself too I suppose. Haha. Are you handsome? (In the context meaning "Did you look handsome?")]

I am super excited to share the Easter message to the people here in the Philippines this week. It should be interesting for trackting because it is Holy week. Most people here are Catholic, so basically everyone is celebrating it. I am so grateful for the knowledge that our Savior Jesus Christ died for us, and that he was resurrected!! He lives!! Because of His resurrection, we have the opportunity to be resurrected and become like our Heavenly Father! We can live for eternity with our families. Everything points to our Savior. He is the only way. He is the truth and the light. When the world seems so dark and lonely, we can focus on Christ. We will feel a literal change in our hearts and in our minds as a lighter feeling enters. Just as a candle's small flame chases the darkness from a room, when we focus on the Savior our path is lighted, and the darkness fades. He is the way. When we follow Him and His teachings, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can do anything. We can withstand anything that comes our way. He is our rock and our foundation. I pray that we can all remember Him, especially at this time of year, and remember that HE LIVES!!! 

All my love, 
Sister Harston

Amy's March 17th email home!

Hello my fantabulous, wonderful, lovely, amazing family and friends! :)

Thank you for all your emails, letter and support!! You all mean so much to me!! Last week they announced new rules for the mission, and we are being allowed additional time for emailing, and we are now allowed to email family, friends, fellow missionaries, and anyone else as long as they are not within our mission boundaries (except for former investigators--that's an ok now, too!) So I can receive and respond to email and written snail mail. 

To answer some questions....
I don't know the exact ratio of dollars to pesos, but it's about 41 pesos to every dollar I think. It depends on the brands, but things are usually a lot cheaper here, especially food. To give you an idea, when we go grocery shopping each week, I often buy cereal and or oatmeal, juice, milk, snacks, bread, and sometimes a few fruits (much cheaper in the fruit stands outside), and sometimes a few laundry items or things like that. I can usually buy that all for about 500 to 800 pesos. It seems like a lot at the time, but when you convert it to US dollars, it's super cheap.

People still are required to have licenses here in order to drive. :) I'm not sure the age though. Usually people learn to drive at an older age from what it seems like. I'd like to see the driving handbook, too. Not very many people have licenses here though. Only the families that are well off have a car, and then usually only the husband drives. There are a few women that drive, too, but from what I've observed, it's more common for the men.

Jerry, I'd love to come over there and help ya out with the weeding and harvesting, but...well... maybe next year or the year after that. ;) 

We are still a threesome, covering two areas, so we are still trying to juggle that. We go on splits with members as often as we can to cover more ground at once, so that helps. That happens usually about once or twice a week. Next transfer we should get another sister, but we don't know. Only God knows. President DeLaMare will receive revelation for the next transfer. Many things could happen. Two of us will stay for sure so we can lead the two areas. All of us could stay and just get one new sister, or one of us could be transferred and get two new sisters. The new sister(s) to the area could be sisters that are already in the field, they could be sisters who are in the middle of their 12 week training program, or they could be sisters who are completely new to the field. We'll see!! I'm excited to see what happens. But I'm not excited to maybe split from my companions! Even though it is often very difficult being a threesome, I have grown to love these sisters so much!! They are amazing. Our whole zone is amazing. It's very different this transfer than it was last transfer. Last transfer we had a very crazy group of missionaries, with it being the last area in their missions for many of them. I had a difficult time relating to them sometimes. But this transfer it's a totally new group. Most of our zone is training, so it's a completely different feel. The sisters are so sweet and the elders are super nice. There is a great spirit about the zone. 

We made a difficult decision this past week. Because we are covering two different areas this transfer, we are juggling the days and which area we will work in. The area where I was originally assigned in New Manila and Galas, we have very few investigators. We are mostly teaching less-active members, but they aren't progressing. We feel that most of the people think of the missionaries as just friends, and like having them over, but don't take the gospel seriously. We teach them, but they are not willing to commit to anything. I have come to love them each very much, but we made the difficult decision to not go to them for a while--give them some time and then we can go back to them when they are ready. But in the meantime, there are people out there who are ready to accept the gospel! We need to use our time more efficiently and teach to those who are ready. So we're basically starting fresh. That means...TRACKTING!! I hadn't been trackting before, so that was a new experience. You really feel like a missionary, ringing doorbells and talking to the people at their gates. (We went trackting in the more wealthier parts of the city this time.) We met some nice people, had some doors shut, and many people saying they were busy. No one actually let us in, but we   talked to a few people on the streets and got 3 people that said we could come back! It's definitely a learning experience, and I feel sad for the people who don't take the time to listen, especially when they won't even open the gate. We talked to a lot of peepholes. Even though we were tired at the end of the day, we felt energized and felt good about the work and about the people we had talked to. There is a time for everyone!! Heavenly Father loves each one of us.

We went on splits yesterday and attempted to contact some referrals from the previous day of trackting and a referral from the mission office. Sister Abonitalla and Sister Paloma worked in Cubao and Kamuning with a sister from the ward, and I worked in New Manila and Galas with three other members. We had a lot working with us yesterday! I love their enthusiasm and willingness to work with us. Unfortunately most of our appointments fell through or the people weren't there when we got there. I decided we would go try to find the house of the office referral. We pulled out the map and started walking! After asking a few people, we eventually found out our map was wrong, but we found the place with the help of some people along the street. Kelly. (our referral), is renting a room in a hotel, so we called her room from the front desk. As I spoke on the phone, I barely even noticed that she was speaking English. I responded to her questions in Tagalog, and she eventually said she'd come downstairs to meet us. She and her brother, Kevin met us downstairs and they only speak English!! Surprise! They are here from the US to study nursing and have about 2 years left to study before they return back. We were able to get to chat with them to get to know them and their expectations for us and we shared a small message with them. Kelly was especially receptive. Her brother was pretty quiet, but he  was receptive as well. The spirit was super strong, and we shared experiences and testified. 

We had our stake conference and had a special Area Broadcast this past week. The spirit is so strong!

Anyways, time is up. I wrote you a book, but there is so much going on here every day! I love this mission, and I love this gospel. I love the joy and peace it brings. Always look to Him! 

I love you all and pray for you often,
Sister Harston

Amy's March 10th email home! Plus Pictures!

Magandang gabi sa inyo! (hapon lang sa akin dito sa Philippines).
Translation: Good night to you! (afternoon for me here in the Philippines).

We are still covering two areas even though we are a threesome, so our area is very large. Next transfer we will probably get a forth companion and be back to the normal two-sets of companions, one companionship per area. We do our best to balance the areas and the people, but it's sometimes difficult to get everywhere we need to. We're having to prioritize, and we split when members are available to work with us. It's kind of scary to lead the discussions, but I know I can do it when I put my full trust in Heavenly Father. I still feel so stinkin' weak, but Heavenly Father is teaching me and helping me grow. I am learning so much from both of my companions every day. I often feel like I'm still in training, not the trainer! I am grateful for the scriptures, for the spirit, and for the power of prayer. I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for this opportunity to serve Him by serving our brothers and sisters here in the Philippines.

Dad, you sound like you had a crazy, tiring, but fun week with the training! Go-cart racing, eh? Sounds like a blast. Sometimes the driving here in the Philippines reminds me of go-cart racing because it's so aggressive and crazy. The traffic rules here are merely suggestions. The lines are merely suggestions. If you're bigger, you win. If you want to make a left turn, you do, even if you drive on the wrong side of the road for a while first to get there faster. Now I know where Tyler got his crazy driving skills from. ;) Joke-lang. But the driving here is pretty different. I remember being in shock the first few days with the driving, but it just seems normal now.

Mom, yes, we do walk a lot here, but we also eat a lot here. The people are so generous and are ALWAYS feeding us. We can't say no, because that would be considered rude. If they are expecting us for a teaching appointment, they'll often prepare a full meal. If we stop by another time, they buy merienda, or snacks and soft drinks. I have never had so many soft drinks in my life. Haha. Even though we walk a lot, I actually have gained weight here. Not a ton, but enough that people don't always comment on how I'm "too skinny" now. I'm "normal" now. Everyone has such a big heart. Sharing is completely normal here. There is no "mine" and "yours," but "ours." It took a bit of getting used to at first, but now I love it. Even in our companionship. If someone has a snack, we offer some to our companions. It is a small thing, but it has really unified us.

Mom, you also asked about the money and how that works. We have a support visa card. We pull out our support once every 16 days. We pull out P4000 and it's plenty for the month. We have limited expenses- water and electric bills, food, travel. That just about covers it. We eat out only once or twice a week, and travel is fairly cheap. We take jeepneys if it's really far, but otherwise we just walk.

Jerry, you asked about how training is going. Sister Abonitalla and I switch off every other day with the training. Sister Paloma is so awesome! I often feel like I'm the trainee. She's teaching me so much!

We have our Zone Conference this Wednesday at the mission home, so I'll have to let you know how that goes. :)

I've been blessed to be able to play the piano for several different occasions. It is really stretching me to sight read and I have blotched a few times. I was asked to play for our last transfer meeting, and I've played at a baptism, a wedding, and now in sacrament once. I've also played a couple times when we have a meeting at the mission home or whatnot. Thank you mom for teaching me piano! I often make mistakes, but I'm glad for the knowledge that I have and hope to continue to have opportunities to use it. Another sister and I have talked about singing a duet for the next transfer meeting too, so that should be fun. She has a gorgeous soprano voice, and can sing alto, too. :)

One of our investigators, Tatay Jun is so awesome. I'm pretty sure I have written about him in previous emails. He's in his 70s and is soooo ready for the gospel. He has lots of questions, and when we teach him about different doctrines or principles that he didn't know about before, he applies it right then and there to his life. We taught him about the Word of Wisdom and he said that he drinks coffee and tea sometimes. But right then and there he said he would stop drinking those drinks because "if that's what God commands, I'll do it." He is so strong and has SUCH a strong desire to do what's right to the best of his ability. We are told to become as little children, submissive in all things...Tatay Jun is exactly like that. He is so humble. He is applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to his life and is changing. He is so happy and gets excited when we teach him. The spirit is always super strong. His baptism is going to be on April 6th!
When we teach Tatay Jun, his two granddaughters often join. The oldest is 9 years old and she often brings her friend who is also 9 years old. They are super sweet girls, and we have a sweet bond. Yesterday at church Tatay Jun came again! And the two girls came, too!! Tatay Jun's life is blessing the lives of others.

I love this gospel. I am so grateful for this opportunity to share it with others and bring families together. Families are forever. It's not just "till death do us part." There is more after this life. When we apply the principles of the gospel in our families, we become stronger and happier. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy in this life, and in the life to come, and the way to do that is to be with our families. I am so grateful for my wonderful family. Thank you for your examples of strength and faithfulness. I love you all!

All my love,
Sister Harston

 Amy's March 4th email home!

Hello my wonderful, beautiful family and friends! :)

This week has definitely been one of changes and adjustments. I went to the training meeting for the soon-to-be trainers last Tuesday morning and then transfers were on Wednesday! We had a bit of a surprise though. Instead of getting two new trainees, Sister Abonitalla and I are co-training! Sister Paloma, our trainee, is amazing! She's Filipino, and was pretty nervous when she first got here. She reminded me a lot of me actually. She already knows Tagalog, so that is a huge help, and she loves the gospel. She is 23 years old and was baptized with her family at age 16 by some missionaries. Her testimony is rock-solid, and she has already touched many lives here. I love her to death! She doesn't speak fluent English, but is learning, so she'll use it every once in a while. I rarely speak pure English in our home anymore unless I don't know how to say it any other way. I am still working on building my vocabulary, but I'm pretty good at Taglish. Tyler knows what I'm talking about. :) Just conjugate English words, and it's considered Tagalog! That works here in the city where people are more educated, but in the more rural parts it's deeper Tagalog.

Mom, you asked about the weather. It's been getting a lot hotter lately, but the evenings are often pleasant with cool breezes. It's still very humid, but I'm used to that now. I don't really remember what it feels like not to be humid. :)

Christina!! Mom told me you PASSED Stephanie in height???? Oh my goodness!! That means you passed ME!! I've told my companions how tall you were and how you were still growing. They've been amazed, especially when I tell them your age. My new companion, Sister Paloma is about 4'11," so I tower over her. You would tower over her, too!! Goodness girl! :)

Dad, you asked about my feet and about walking. Yes, we walk a LOT. Rain or shine, we are out walking. My feet have been ok. Every once in a while they'll hurt a little, but not bad at all and not very often.

Well, times up. But I love you all so much!! Thank you for your continual support and love. I am so blessed!! This gospel is true!!

Sister Harston

Amy's February 25th email home!

Hello my wonderful family!!

This week is transfers!!! Tomorrow is our transfer day, so I don't know who my companion will be yet, but I've learned some interesting things this past week about this upcoming transfer. We got a call a couple of days ago from the office elders and they talked first with Sister Abonitalla. I've been saying for a while that she will be training this next transfer. She'd be a natural, but she resisted and said it wouldn't happen. And guess what?? They told her she'd be training. No surprise. :)  She then handed the phone to me. They asked me how I thought Sister Abonitalla would do with training, and I told them she'd be awesome. Then after a little more small talk he said something that I thought was a joke. He said, "And guess what? You're going to be training, too!" WHAT???? "Nagjojoke ka ba elder?" (Are you joking elder?) . When I realized he was serious, I was in shock to say the least. I JUST finished going through the training program! Wow. I didn't know what to say or how to feel. I had to fight back the tears. SO overwhelmed! He told me we had a meeting at the mission home the next morning to meet with all the other trainers and talk about our calling and role as trainers of the new missionaries coming in. So yesterday morning Sister Abonitalla and I went to the mission home to meet with President DeLaMare and the other missionaries. We received a booklet containing the 12 week program for the new missionaries, and a smaller book for us trainers explaining our role. We read together, discussed, and then had an activity in which we learned more about our role as trainers and the role of the trainees. We discussed some more and then President DeLaMare spoke to us about the magnitude of our calling. He blessed us in the name of Jesus Christ with the power of discernment for the new missionaries coming in and with the ability to fulfill our callings if we put our trust in the Lord. What blessings! He told us that the weight of what we are feeling is normal and can be lifted if we place it on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We do our very best, and he will take the rest. Like Elder Turbovsky said in his last email, "he won't do anything for you that you can do for yourself." I am finding that to be true. I know I was on my knees a lot this last transfer asking for help, and I have a feeling I will be on my knees even more this transfer. There is still SO much I don't know and SO much more to learn. But like Jerry said, just when we start to feel comfortable in one spot, change happens. This is definitely not a change I was expecting, but I will put my trust in my Heavenly Father to help me. It's definitely going to be a test of faith! Here goes! 

Yesterday was an eventful day. After the meeting, we had a lunch appointment with the Ogay family in our ward and later that night Sister Acenas was picked up by the office elders because she's going home! She is now done with her mission. It's amazing how much you can grow to love someone, despite huge differences in personality or the like. She has been an awesome missionary, and it was hard to see her go. She was having a bit of a hard time, too. The house is very quiet with her gone. She was definitely the life of our house. So now it's me and Sister Abonitalla, and we spent the evening last night and this morning cleaning the house and getting it ready for our new companions!! We'll finish up later today when we get home. 

I will have to tell you all about my new companion next week! I'm nervous, excited, and scared to death! Haha. But Sister Abonitalla and I had a planning session in which we talked about how we want to be obedient in all things, and we want to be open and honest in all things. We established how we will handle shopping/cooking/cleaning each week and how we will rotate it. It felt good to be on the same page and to discuss things that we want and don't want to do. Communication is so key! I am really looking forward to this next transfer.

Thank you again for all your love and support! You are in my prayers every day, and I love you all!! Elder Turbovsky, thank you for the referral!! I will send it in. It's not in my area unfortunately, but I'll send it to the office elders and they'll send it on to the missionaries in Sebu! :)

All my love,
Sister Harston
Amy's February 17th email home!

Hello my wonderful family and friends!

Thank you again for your continual support. I love your emails and letters!! You are all amazing. MEGAN!!! I can't believe you're going to serve a mission!!!! THAT'S SOOO AWESOME!!! I love you so much!! You are going to make a fabulous missionary. Yay! I could just jump up and down I'm so excited! I'm in a computer shop right now though, so maybe that will have to wait. ;) Ahhh! So exciting.

Briana, I just received your DearElder letter this morning. Thank you sooo much for your letter. You are awesome and have always been a great strength to me. Love you lots!!

Christina, it sounds like you've had a blast this past week! Mom and Jerry, too! I'm glad you were able to take a bit of a break. You deserve it.

This morning we had zone training. President had talked to the zone leaders and encouraged us to bear our testimonies to one another. We see each other each week, and we share our testimonies every single day to our investigators, but it's not often that we share them with each other. The spirit was super strong. Our zone is often very crazy and has a hard time being serious, so it was really neat to hear their testimonies.

This last week has been great. I am learning SO much every week. I've really been praying for strength and guidance from the Spirit this week. I have discovered that even when you're tired, you can still feel the spirit and teach with power and authority! I knew that before, but I really felt that this week. I was really tired at points, but as we went to the houses of different investigators, I prayed to feel Heavenly Father's love for them and for me. As I did that, I was amazed at how much love I felt for these people!! Heavenly Father really loves each one of us, and wants us to return to Him!! He's our FATHER in Heaven. There is one family in particular that we are really focusing on right now. We are teaching the father, Brother Igloria, and he has such a strong desire to grow closer to Christ and has a strong testimony of Him. He asks many questions and really wants to know. I felt such a strong love for him and for his family. We were able to share that with him and the spirit was really strong. As I opened my mouth to speak, I knew exactly what to say. It was simple, but the spirit was strong, and the message was clear. It was a huge testament to me that the spirit works. The amazing thing was we planned to talk about the Plan of Salvation, but we were led by the spirit to teach about prayer instead. It was what he needed to hear. Dad, like you said in your email, we are not the real teachers. The spirit is the teacher. If the person is ready to listen to the spirit, he will testify to what is being taught and will help them learn and grow and have a desire to change. As missionaries, we are literally set apart from the world for a year and a half or 2 years. We are literal representatives of Jesus Christ, and we have been called by a living prophet to teach the gospel to the world. It is pretty intimidating if you think about it! But we are not alone. We aren't the true teachers, so if we are prepared, we shall not fear.

We had an opportunity to hear from Elder and sister Neilson (brother of Elder Neilson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles) and Elder and Sister Packer (son of Elder Packer of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles). Inspiring! We are still establishing the church here in the Philippines. It is still fairly new, and we get to help strengthen it and find people to teach!

I know that Heavenly Father loves me. I know he loves YOU, too! He is constantly aware of our lives and knows what we need to grow. Sometimes in our lives He gives us trials, and it's easy to get discouraged. But because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the perspective it gives us, we know that it is through those times of trial that we grow stronger! Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us and will mold us into the person he knows we can become if we let Him. I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ!! I love the scriptures!! I love reading and studying the conference talks! We have a living prophet and living apostles to guide us today and tell us what God wants and expects of us today. "Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do." (Alma 32:3).

I love you all.
Sister Harston
 Amy's February 10th email home!

Hello my wonderful family,

Time is sure flying. It feels like I JUST wrote you, and here I am
writing again. We have about two weeks left of this transfer, and I am
excited and nervous about it. I have SO much more to learn! I am
constantly reminded of how very weak I am, and how much I need to rely
on my Savior. It's definitely a work in progress. I will be getting a
new companion this next transfer, and because Sister Acenas is going
home, I will be the one leading the area. Our area covers a large
area, and you know how I am with directions. :)  It has been a
challenge, but I feel like I know where everyone lives now. I've been
praying for the confidence to lead and to comfort my companions. They
are constantly reminding me that I need to memorize the area which
doesn't help matter, but it's true. It has taken me a while, but I've
got it down now. I am grateful for the extra long transfer this time.
Heavenly Father really knows what we need. He's very aware.

This past week I've been able to witness some amazing changes people's
hearts. I think I told you about one older man named Tatay Jun last
week, and there is another young woman in her upper twenties that just
received a confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true!! She's been
praying for a long time, and has been frustrated that she hasn't
received an answer, but this last time we went to her house, she said
she knew! She was obviously excited. We were excited, too! This gospel
is true!!

Having native companions definitely helps with the language
improvement, though it has definitely been a challenge. I feel my
comprehension increasing dramatically, though there are still many
times where I don't understand people. It's still sometimes a
challenge to jump into the conversations and to be involved because my
comps are so close and chat away in Tagalog all the time. I often feel
like a pain asking so many questions, but I need to be involved. I
need to learn. If I don't ask questions, I won't learn. So I keep
bugging them! (They told me to). :) We are a companionship. We need to
be unified. I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining, because I'm
not. It is a blessing Heavenly Father has given me to help me learn
and grow! :)

We have interview with the Mission President this week, so I'm looking
forward to that. He has suggested that I lead the area this week to
comfort and better gain the trust of my companions, so I'm going to
try that out.

Service is so amazing. We went on exchanges yesterday, so I went with
Sister Acenas to a couple appointments while Sister Abonitalla and a
member from our ward went to the other area. Sister Acenas and I went
and visited a less-active in our ward whose father just died and whose
baby just got out of the hospital. She has three young children and is
extremely busy trying to take care of them all. We shared a short
message with her and then insisted on taking her dirty laundry and
washing it for her. She resisted,  but we were stubborn and took the
bundles anyway. :) She was very grateful. We had a washing party this
morning, and it's all drying right now. We'll take it to her either
later today or tomorrow. It felt so good to do.

I am grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His example to us by
serving. Service is so important!! If you are down, serve!! If you are
happy, serve! Serve serve serve!! Look for opportunities to serve one
another in secret, too. You feel so good, and your love for the person
you are serving increases. I am grateful for this gospel and for the
light it gives to our lives. Even though times are not always easy, we
can always trust and rely on our Savior Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly
Father. They are ALWAYS there. The scriptures are amazing, too. Study
them! Love them!! They are truly the words of God.

I love you all!! Keep being amazing examples of strength to those around you!

Sister Harston

I'm waiting for my comps to finish up, so I thought I'd update you on
the balut situation! I have officially eaten balut now. :) The first
time it was offered to me I refused, but I gave in the second time
since I had watched my comps eat it. They had survived, so I decided
to give it a try. It wasn't so bad. I don't know that I will eat it
again, but I can now say I've eaten it. Haha. I've also eaten a fruit
called Durian fruit. Apparently most foreigners don't like it, but I
did. My comps are trying to give me a lot of different experiences
when it comes to food, so I've eaten a bunch of new things. I am now a
fan of fresh fish, especially talapia. Delicious! I wasn't a fan of
shrimp before, but now I like it, and I love all their veggies and
fruits here. They are very different, but I'm loving them. The bread
is also delicious, and there are small bakeries everywhere, so if
we're hungry as we're walking, we can stop and buy a pastry or roll.

Ok, my comps are done now, so until next week! Thought you might enjoy
a bit of an update. :)

Sister Harston