Monday, July 29, 2013

28 July 2013 - HBD Samuel

   This week was pretty calm. I did have a pretty cool experience earlier this week though. You know me- I am terrible with directions. And it's even worse here because everything and everywhere looks the same, haha, lots of trees and small brown houses.
Beach near the Bishop's house
And I am normally entranced with my surroundings so I have a hard time focusing on where I am going. But we were going to go visit a less active member and she was not there. We were walking away when suddenly I remembered about some boys that I had met with Sister Sevilla and how we needed to contact them and follow up. I had given one of them a Book of Mormon. I stopped and closed my eyes to try and remember where we were when I met them. I looked up and saw a man quickly walk into his house and for the first time since I have been here I recognized his face. Then I looked around and we were right next to the place where we had met those boys.
That man that walked into the house was the Brother I had met earlier!! I told my companion and we went and talked to him. He was so excited to talk to us and told us he wanted to change his life. He is a drug addict and is in with the wrong crowd, but he is so sweet and really has a desire to change.... I am so excited to see how his life progresses as we continue to teach him and he keeps commitments. But that was such an awesome experience for me and definitely not a coincidence.
   We also have another investigator- Livey. She is a teacher and seems very interested, but we can only teach her on weekends so hopefully this week she will have read and prayed about our message.
   I continue to purchase 15 Peso Halo halo's. They are so delicious and I think I am slightly addicted, haha.

Halo halo is addicting

   Yesterday was my first time singing in Sacrament meeting. I love singing here because no one judges. Haha, no one here can sing and so they think you are a famous singer if you can keep a tune, hahaha. Hahaha, I love it!
   We have no support, haha. I had to pay all the rent because my companion left and bought a new gas thingy so I have no money, so we got creative and for breakfast we ate oatmeal with this hot chocolate package mix and slices of banana. It's not terrible if you are really hungry.
   The language is still a huge struggle for me. Sorry )=

   Something I learned about the culture this week is bad spirits. They are soooo common here. So we are searching for a new apartment and not having much luck. Yesterday we were hunting and looking at a house and one of the members asked me to take pictures of the house- and I thought nothing of it and did so. Later she looked at the pictures and told me we could not stay there. She could tell from looking at the pictures even though she was looking at the house with us. Apparently what Philippinos do to see if it's a good house is they take pictures and look for faces, AKA bad spirits. And sure enough in the pictures in my camera there is a face in one of the bedrooms. ... Creepy yea? 
Root vegetables that are pretty good.

The same member took me aside and made sure to remind me to not eat anything except from members because poison is common here and there are many people with bad spirits especially at the craftsman school by my house. The members know witches and some of them have been witches in the past.
Blind sisters in the ward that we LOVE.
Kind of crazy! My companion will not sleep with the lights off and won't go anywhere without me in the dark (upstairs). She refuses to have the mirrors out too. Apparently there are people that watch you where there are mirrors. For me though, ever since I have been set apart I have felt the protective power of my calling. I am not scared and I know that if I am I just say out loud "I know that Jesus Christ Lives" and I walk on and keep going. I know that there are angels around me and I appreciate their presence and call on them frequently.
   This week my testimony of prayer has grown so much. I have no idea how I have made it this far in life without praying as much as I do now haha. I have a desire to pray all the time! I love praying- I just know that my Father is listening. I can really feel His love and concern for me. It is my number one source of comfort- in a different way than I have ever experienced before. When I get off my knees I feel empowered and capable of going on with a smile. I know that pray is so important and necessary in this life for us to have a relationship with our Father and Savior.
   I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love studying and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love all of you and pray for you every day! Please be safe and thank you for being a part of my life!

All my Love,
Sister Sarah Ralph

Happy Birthday Samuel

Eating sugar cane!

Monday, July 22, 2013

21 July 2013

Ok well here is this week's update.
   Not too much has happened other than transfers, haha. So Tuesday we just had normal district meeting and then taught a few LA's (less-Active) and investigators in the area. Wednesday we had to wait till 3 PM to find out Sister Sevilla is being transferred. So we threw together a quick goodbye party that night with the ward and then she packed and left early in the morning. It was crazy trying to get everything ready. I had two sisters- ward missionaries in the ward stay the whole day with me. But Sister Sevilla accidentally took the phone with her so we had to chase after her and we pretty much ran around like chickens with our heads cut off the whole day. That night I went to Catarman and stayed with the sister training leaders till my new companion showed up. I got to spend some time in the city and see that area. It's super different- less trees and more people. My new trainer is Sister Cruz. She is the exact opposite of Sister Sevilla. It's kind of crazy- I'm getting personality whip lash here, haha. then we had to stay there another night because her luggage did not come. Then we got to our apartment and killed lots of spiders and it actually was really funny... I just laughed and laughed as I chased this giant spider around our house. I stopped counting the number of cockroaches I have killed, hahah.
   Oh man. She is big into organization so we are taking our house apart after this and cleaning. Which is good cause our apt has schisomosis--- whatever that worm is called that goes into your blood and you can never cure it.... Awesome yea? haha. So far we have visited with a few LA's and investigators and we are working on adjusting. She is very motherly and I am excited to learn so much from her! I am sorry I don't have much to report at all this week. We did very few teachings. We're still working on helping our investigators keep commitments. I am constantly "wrestling with the spirit" trying to calm my desire to be better fast and yet still work hard and have faith. Faith faith faith... need I say more? I am so grateful to be here and have these experiences, and struggle and learn, and learn to rely on the spirit. I love the scriptures and am so grateful for the strength they give me every day! I love you all and hope to hear how you all are doing!!
   Be Safe Please!! All my Love!!
Sister Sarah Ralph

Monday, July 15, 2013

15 July 2013

Ok... here I go.
   So this week has been wonderful. People still think that I am Christina Aguilera... not sure how that works, but I guess its an improvement from being a man. On Tuesday we traveled again to Catbalogan for a mission tour with President Teh of the 70. Ok, I wish you could experience what it is like to travel here. I am on the verge of barfing the whole time because it's like a rollercoaster but with no seatbelts and kids and dogs inches away from the vans zooming 100 miles an hour through twisty roads hahah I love it, but we all get sick pretty bad.
   Anyway, so the zone conference was great. The focus was on having faith, especially faith to find (much needed). He did a great job in being direct with us. He said "Elder's and Sister's the Lord is embarrassed with our finding"... yeah... ouch! It's true though! So we are trying to refocus and work with members to get referrals and the goal here is to search among the middle class for professionals and their families who want to hear our message. Hopefully things will start changing around here and the work will move forward at a different pace than in the past. I appreciated his words and hope to apply them fully to our efforts. I am still trying to still get a hang of things: the area, the ward, meetings, members, the area book, PMG, the language etc... so line upon line haha.
   Ok, I love the bukid area I am in. Bukid means its out in the boonies or mountains. And I just love it! Its the most beautiful place ever! I love my area. I am at the point now where I just shower with the spiders and cockroaches. I killed 3 cockroaches last night haha I swear those things have like 30 lives haha. They never die! We were walking home last night late... oh I should explain something.. so here the sun comes up at 5 and goes down a little after 6 every day. So after about 7 we have to go home because there are no rides back and our area is 4 km from our home. Last night though it was late and we were waiting on the side of the road for a tricycle to take us home and we got chased by dogs and had like a twenty minute conversation with this crazy drunk man... I mostly laughed at Sister Sevilla as she kept trying to get him to go home. Oh good times.
Climbing the Coconut trees
   Sister Sevilla and I are doing great! I am soo so blessed and grateful my prayers and fasting have been answered. We talk and enjoy each other and she is teaching me how to cook and I am filling her head with my "experience" of ...many things haha. I am so grateful! Life really is so wonderful! I tried street BBQ for the first time.. Super good! And oh... the reason why I could not get online earlier today was because my zone was hiking today! CRAZY FUN! We got up at 4:30 and met up with the zone and just started hiking through the jungle. Straight up jungle! And we ran into this jungle man who climbs the trees for coconuts. He got us coconuts from the threes and is a super pro at cutting them with his knife just right so you got drink from them or eat the coconut. So this morning I was in the jungle being fed coconut straight from the tree from a jungle man. It actually was pretty good! Soo much fun! Then he offered to take us through the jungle a while... Bare feet and all. When we were done we ended up at a university. Can you imagine that? walking through the jungle and showing up at BYU campus? haha well that's how it is here. Then we went to the beautiful beach and built temples with the perfect sand, got super burnt and had pig cooked over coconut skins and fed to us on banana leaves. Its so incredible here!
   The biggest problem is helping our investigators keep their commitments! Ahh! Its super hard! We have a few new investigators and one of the investigators we taught a few times this week was baptized on Friday. That was such a blessing to see her make that covenant. She is 15 and very prepared for the gospel. This last Sunday 2 LA families that we taught came to church! So happy!!! The Bitang family came! They have 10 kids and Tay is a heavy smoker and drinker and does not like the Elders, but he came!! Oh man! I was so happy to see them!
   I am still trying so hard to recognize the spirit and teach with the spirit. The language... I don't know. I taught Gospel Essentials on Sunday hahaha. No one was assigned and everyone was just arguing about who would do it, so I just stood up and started teaching. I can understand if they speak hinay hinay (super slow) but normal speech... I still can't. I am still struggling very much, but I am more focused on just having faith still that my efforts will be enough and my progress is at the pace the Lord wants for me. Patience is still not my strong suit for sure.
   A few things that have helped me this week are quotes that all of you already know. "It's true isn't it? Then what else matters?"
   Thomas S Monson- "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to love"
   I am learning the importance of prayer. For me, I just to take a moment before my prayer to think about who I am speaking to and what I really want to say, because the message that I am sharing with these people is really all centered around prayer. Prayer is the key. I go into people's houses and say, "If you pray, God will answer your question" or " you can pray to know the truth" ... do I treat prayer as a sacred act that it is? What a privilege we have to speak with our creator. For me.. this week I think its just been a continuation of last week. I no longer pray to know if He is there. I know now that He is. I have been reminded that if I feel like I am alone and He is not there... its not because he is not there... that is Satan. I am letting Satan into my head. I know that our Father in Heaven is always with us, always reaching out for us. I know that our experiences here in this life are for our good. I am so grateful to be where I am. I love this work. I love my Savior and Our Heavenly Father and am so excited that i get this opportunity to align my will with His. I love you all so very very much. You are such a strength and source of love and comfort for me. Please remember how much you are loved and continue to have Faith in Jesus Christ. Please Be Safe!
   With All My Love,
   Sister Sarah Ralph

Monday, July 8, 2013

7 July 2013

 Samuel... how are those braces coming along?? Weird huh?
How are all the babies in the family doing?
OK these are going to be random so bare with me..
Last P-day we had a ward missionary and full time missionary activity where we made food and watched the "Other Side of Heaven"... oh my goodness can I just tell you. I died! I died of laughter. I can totally relate to that movie now and its suuuuupppper funny. I was crying I laughed so hard. I had mango float again.. which is delicious. I will make it for my family and whoever else when I get back. Super good! I'm trying to learn how to cook but we will see how that works out haha. Nothing like my mom's cooking though for sure.
Ok, so far one of my favorite parts of the Philippines is just how beautiful it always is. Yes... it's dirty and trashy but the these people live in the jungle. The coconut trees stretch for as far as you can see and the sky is blue or covered in clouds. It's so easy to find something to be grateful for here. At night, when the clouds are not crazy, the stars are beautiful and HUGE bats are always flying everywhere. I love the bats!! I love that there are huge spiders and people just treat them like wall decorations. I found out why this week when I tried to kill one in my house- they are lightning quick. It's easier to just let them be haha. Almost everyday there is tremendous thunder. Its sooo exciting! I give a little Sarah squeal every time I hear it cause I love it so much. It means that the rain is coming and its going to dump! And boy does it ever. It just floods everything in like 2 minutes and then stops and everything is dry again in an hour. So weird. I already broke my umbrella- serves me right for getting it at Wally World. I got to teach the Restoration to an investigator this week and man did I bomb it, but the spirit was there and I felt so good! I love Joseph Smith so much!
Ok.. this always confused me. So most of the little kids run around naked or with no pants yea? So no diapers right? Sooo???? you get what I am trying to say? I found out this week during a lesson when the little girl just went right there in the middle of the house, hahaha, when the ground is dirt in peoples homes. That's probably one of the reasons they always wear flipflops... cause the ground of their house is the bathroom as well. Good to know. I love this place!!
I went on my first exchanges this last week and it was fun. I got to see a different approach at teaching and so I learned a lot. She helped me set some goals and I was yet again pushed out of my comfort zone being the one to lead her through the area.
So I found out a lot about my mission this week. Apparently it was terrible before. Missionaries were getting married to Catholics as missionaries, and creating secret combination things where missionaries would get points for disobedience. it was highest in baptisms, but many of them were not good baptisms. So right now we are in the process of cleaning up the mission and the mess made. So baptisms are few, but we are focusing on rescuing.
I gave my camera card to the secretary in my ward cause he asked for it, but he ended up removing all my pix. Soo... alas. I lost all of my pictures. Sorry )= . Lame I know. Sister Sandra is an RM in my ward and she is such a gem. She is helping me with the language and she read my mind or something because I needed another skirt and she randomly showed up and handed me a skirt and was like... I think this will fit you. I was shocked and so surprised to find that it not only fit but was long enough!!! All of you who shop with me know just what kind of a miracle that is. Ridiculous!
This week has been so good, because the ward is really warming up to me. Some of the girls in the ward say things like "I would want you for my companion" or "we want you to stay here forever" things like that... just make me feel so good! I love love love my ward so much!
Elder Baker is one of my ZL's and he is probably going to be transferred next week but I really look up to him. He is a huge help with the language and with just becoming the missionary I want to be. I want to become a PMG missionary. It is not easy and I have a long ways to go, but its a goal that I have. I am excited for everything ahead of me.
The language is still.... not happening haha. But I am trying to stay positive and do what I can with what I have. I'm going to pray harder and fast more and would really appreciate your continued prayers in helping me to learn this language. I have realized that I do not get as frustrated any more... so that is something, right? hahaha It will come, it will (= .
Me and my companion are improving. I think the ward members have helped her see some of my positive qualities and so that has been a huge blessing for me. I am happy and content so no complaints (= .
I love Sundays sooo much! They are just truly blessed days. I just feel edified and uplifted every Sunday! It is a day of emotional rest for me at least.
So just an hour ago, my companion and I were at JolliBee (its like McDonalds for Philip) and I was ordering when someone behind me said, "where are you from?" in an English accent. I was shocked to turn around and see a white guy behind me. He and another guy, Eric and Greg, are interns here, graduated from Princeton. We four ate together and it was really cool to see how I could share principles of the gospel with them in just a more simple way than I have before. I was confident and appreciated the English. Yea, Eric asked if I could get lunch with him... so I had to explain a little, but we are giving his number to Elder Keate, no joke... he might actually really be interested in the church. I am excited to see where that goes. It sounds bad, but you kind of had to be there. Either way, It was nice to share my testimony the way I feel it- in my own language.
Something that I am learning and will continue to learn is Faith. Don't laugh... yes I know this is the first basic requirement in the church. But all my life, I have lacked this greatly. I didn't realize that all my fears and worries and complaints really were just me lacking faith. I want to be like Nephi and with confidence say... "I will go and DO the things the Lord has commanded... for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment.. save he shall prepare a way for them". This scripture is going to be a part of who I am. I want to increase in trust in my Savior and believe that if I am doing my best, I can not fail. I am not here to fail. I am here to preach the gospel. I love my life!
I love my family and dear friends so very very much. I am so grateful for your patience with me and your love. You are such a strength to me. Please be safe and know that I love you so much!

Forever With Love,
Sister Sarah Ralph

Monday, July 1, 2013

30 June 2013

    I should probably get started on this email seeing as I have like 15 minutes left to talk, haha. Well my companion finally told me the reason she has not been talking to me. I offended her in the first week and she has not been able to forgive me. So our companionship has been a huge huge struggle- lots of silence, but I have been fasting and praying and our ZL's actually came and interviewed us and last night she finally was able to start talking to me. I am so grateful my Father in Heaven Answered my prayers and softened her heart and allowed her to forgive me of my many weaknesses.
   Halo Halo is probably the weirdest thing I ate this week. Not bad at all just different. Its a slushy drink that they put everything in.. jello, all fruits, rice, corn, weird random anything stuff... its not terrible hahah. I actually really appreicate the bishops wife because she said I should not eat all the things people tell you to. Like chicken intestines and feet-which are everywhere! and dog, balut and rat.... so I will be avoiding those, thank you very much. 
The pig the ward made me eat that skin right off the pig.

   My ward Is a huge blessing. We have incredible ward missionaries who are all so willing to help. I love and appreciate them very much. We have found a few new investigators and one of the LA's we taught came to church so that was soooo good for us to see!
   I am terrible at making goals I realized and so I am working on that.
   I have athletes foot-- its pretty gross but I am putting ointment on and just not looking at it as much as possible.

   I am finally starting to put faces with names a little bit better but learning where people live is still a struggle. Ok... I watched the broadcast and it was amazing but man do they make it look easy. The neighborhoods here are so hard to keep track.. there are streets and then forests and the houses are randomly throughout the forest area without addresses or anything. So you just kind of have to remember by what you see or ask a ton of people where someone else lives. I knew a bunch of people in that broadcast including one of the sister missionaries from the Tampa mission, the organist and a number of people in the crowd-- I was crying a lot.... so many white people.... it was my home!!! hahah, and the culture here is so different it was just nice to feel the power of everyone coming together. I have taken that for granted my whole life.
   I got an opportunity to climb a wall on the ocean and just stare out at the beautiful ocean and the numberless palm trees and sun setting behind the clouds and.... I really do stand all amazed when ever I take a moment to observe God's creations. He truly does live and love us.
Fathers Day activity.. the boys did this adorable dance
    We had our first typhoon this week. It was only a level 2 and so we had to stay inside all day- so I just read general conference talks and the scriptures. The people were do karaoke till 3AM in the morning every day and start at 6 AM in the morning... its hilarious being all tone deaf. And they all sing songs that I love from my high school years... but this night when the rain started BEATING like crazy and the wind was insane.. .they decided to stop singing hahah, it didn't matter cause the rain is so loud we would not have been able to hear them any ways.

Kids that I am in love with.
The little boy next to me has a speech imped. so we are best buds.
   On Friday night I think I was upstairs in a room studying and the ZL's came and said they were asked to interview me and my companion. I was so grateful- we need counseling! They helped me have someone to talk to. I love my companion and I feel so badly for what I have done in the past and what she is going through I just want her to be happy. And so we fasted and set goals and as of last night she started talking to me!!!!! What a beautiful day! Yesterday was incredible- I love the sacrament so much and the broadcast, the stars were gorgeous, the food was good, I got to fast and meet more missionaries and laugh and yesterday was just a wonderful day. I am still working hard on being humble, patient and loving others fully, but my purpose here is to Preach the Gospel. I don't understand anyone still, so my patience is being truly tested, but I believe it will come... please pray for me to learn the language. It is hard to teach with the spirit when I don't know the needs of those I serve. But I know it will come. 
    I am learning so much. I am sorry I don't have cool stories for you. I don't know what would be exciting for you to hear... but I hope all of you know how much I truly deeply care and love each of you and How I am learning how much I truly most depend and trust my Savior. He is the source of all hope, he gives me a reason to smile at ALL times and find joy in the moment. He is the reason I am here, why I have this feeling of bursting inside me to share what I know with these people. I pray for all of you and love you with all my heart.
   Love Forever,
     Sister Sarah Ralph