Monday, January 27, 2014

The Book of Mormon changes hearts!

Dear Family,
Kumusta na kamo? Maayo gid ako! I have the BEST experience to share with all of you today! But first...
So, once upon a time, Sister Winward finally got frustrated about her area. I never thought it would happen. I've really been trying to have patience and endure, because (gani) missionary work is supposed to be challenging. But we just haven't seen much progress for the last while. So, after being punted all of Monday evening, I was just so frustrated with things. But, of course, I didn't give up. I kept having faith. Prayed really hard. Trusted in the Lord. And just hoped that things would get better, if not now than in the future.
And then, on Wednesday, we went back to teach Cheryan  for the third time. We gave her an Aklat ni Mormon the first time we taught her, then the second time she hadn't read because she forgot, so we emphasized that it was really important for her to read it. So then! On Wednesday, we followed up on her reading in the Book Of Mormon, and she had read ALL THE WAY TO JACOB in like a week!!!! 146 pages.WHAT???!!!!! It was awesome! I almost couldn't even talk, I was so shocked and so happy. She is totally golden! She told us how she felt like she related to Nephi because she had a good family and her life didn't really go how she had planned because she had to drop out of her Social Work course. And then we challenged her to go to church and to be baptized and she totally accepted. No excuses. It's definitely not us doing this. It is all the Spirit and the Book of Mormon. So she came to church, was really well fellowshipped, and then the RS lesson was about fellowshipping, so she was super included. It was great. During Sacrament, I gave her some papers for her 4-year-old daughter to draw on, and she started taking notes. She's so studious. I love her so much! The Book of Mormon is a key to conversion. Read it. It WILL change your life.
One of our other investigators, Shirley (the one that talks a lot), is so cute. I'm pretty sure she's gonna be a future YW president or something. She is always fussing over us. She doesn't want us to get attacked by dogs or tired from walking in the sun, so they always give us a ride in their tricycle. She scolds us frequently for walking all the way to her house from the highway. It's not even far. "Just text me when you get off the jeep and we'll come pick you up!" haha. I figured out that part of why she talks so much is to help her reason things out in her head. So, after we taught about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, she just talked it over again to review and to keep "Propeta Smith" and "Propeta Thomas" straight. She is 52 but she still looks like she's in her 30s. And she only ever finished elementary school. But she is sagad at Tagalog, and she just learns from everyone around her.
We had interviews with President Aquino and a cooking demo with Sister Aquino last Wednesday, too. President Aquino said to make sure I send their love to all of you and thank you for sending me here to serve a mission. (Mom and Dad ARE the best.) One person from each apartment had to cook a meal to demonstrate their cooking skills. (I was calling it the Hunger Games...) The Philippines Area Presidency wants to make sure the missionaries know how to cook and aren't just eating pancit canton (like ramen noodles) and mang inasal (a Filipino bbq restaurant) all the time. Sister R. cooked "Salsa Manok" for our apartment's contribution. Yum. On Saturday, I went Olive Garden style, and made my own version of Eggplant Parmesan. Not bad. We are definitely introducing Sister D. to all kinds of wonderful American recipes.
You know what's funny? I still have moments when I can't even believe I am here. I have to like pinch myself to remind myself that it is not a dream. I really am here, in the Philippines, serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the BEST.
I love you all and I really hope you all have a great week. Remember to have charity for every person you meet. Lift where you stand. Halong pirmi!
Love, Sister Winward

Monday, January 20, 2014

Higko! (dirty)

Dear Family, 

How are all of you doing? Thanks for the emails. So the bad news is that not a single investigator or less active came to church. :( We were so sure!!!  This week will be better. On to the good stuff.... 

On Friday we (tried) had a CSP. We wanted to work in the garden of one of our investigators. She didn't go, because it was sprinkling rain, but her husband was harvesting some "lobati," so she had Lea Jane and Clarisse lead us to where the garden was. Yeah...we had no idea what kind of an adventure we were getting ourselves into. We scaled two concrete walls, and walked/slid/slipped through a huge shared farm. Halfway there, we gave up wearing shoes because they just made it harder to balance on the little raised mud paths. We provided endless entertainment to our two little "guides." We slid our way across a bamboo bridge. And then we finally got to the little garden, harvested a little bit (while standing in 5 inches of mud), and then it was time to go back. I learned three things from this higko (dirty) experience. 1) Being a Filipino farmer should be an extreme sport, 2) I am SUCH a city girl. As in. and 3) I should NEVER have complained for working in our garden growing up. That was cake! haha. 

Last Tuesday we gave a combined training about "Finding." We used 1 Nephi 2:20 for part of it, which I really like because you can replace the word "land" for many other blessings. This is what we used: "And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to 'an investigator' of promise; yea, even 'an investigator' which I have prepared for you; yea, 'an investigator' which is choice above all other 'investigators.'" Finding golden investigators starts with our own obedience. :) I love the scriptures. 

Speaking of...I have been studying about Moses this week and the children of Israel. Go Exodus! Moses really was able to perform miracles and lead the Israelites because of his humility and faith in the Lord. He never gave up, even when everyone (including the people he was trying to help were against him). That is a comfort to me. Our area is challenging. The last baptism we know of was December 2012. But I know that no effort to share the gospel is wasted. So we continue in faith and never give up. Because these people need the complete truth. They just don't realize it yet. 

There is this one part active/part less active family in our area. They are awesome. Brother is the Elder's Quorom president, and his son, John Leo, is the Ward Mission Leader and he is preparing to serve a mission. Sister is super good at cooking. Ariane reminds me of Emily. Queenie and Jane are HILARIOUS. They would get along really well with Rachel and Emily. We started teaching them about the Restoration yesterday, but then we started talking about how blessed we are to have worthy priesthood holders in our homes, and then Brother was exhorting his daughters (John Leo was at work) to marry worthy priesthood holders in the Temple. It was really sweet. And really entertaining, because they are all so funny. I love them. 

So, I've been developing a love for cooking. I was alright at baking before, but now I am finally learning to like stove top cooking (with FIRE). You really learn a lot of skills on a mission, in every aspect of life. It is the best! I made Arroz Caldo with black rice last week, and I want to make eggplant parmesan (like at Olive Garden) this week. YUM. Sister Yang and Sister Marchant have opened my mind to the many possibilities. They are so sagad at cooking. 

Oh, also, transfers were last Thursday. We stayed put, but Sister Yang transferred, and now Sister Rappleye is training Sister Daroy (a Filipina). She is a sweetheart. The house is definitely quieter without Sister Yang around though. I'm glad I get 6 weeks more with Sister Marchant! :) 

Love, Sister Winward

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jocelyn, Covenants, and Joseph of Egypt

Dear Family, 

Kumusta kamo? I am doing well this week, though the week began on a very somber note. Last Monday night, at about 10:25 pm, I received a phone call from Sister Nonu. She said that one of our less active members in Oton had passed away. Jocelyn G.  had been fighting liver cirrhosis for a while now. She was only 26. I knew her health was not good, but I was expecting her to recover from it. I was shocked to hear that she had died. That is definitely the hardest I have cried in a long time.  I am comforted by the fact that she is free from pain, and she is definitely serving a mission on the other side of the veil. I am so grateful for the plan of salvation. I am also thankful that it is okay to cry sometimes. I like what it says in True to the Faith under "Death," that our mourning is a sign of our love for those who have passed on before us. To have death without sorrow is like having life without love. President Aquino gave us permission to use our CSP time on Friday to visit Jocelyn's family and go to the viewing. I was glad for the opportunity to comfort Veronica A. She is one of the RS sisters in Oton. She devoted all of her time and half of her income to taking care of Jocelyn over the last year or so. She told me she was splitting her money between her own family and children (Veronica is a widow), and Jocelyn's medicines and hospital bills. She was with Jocelyn night and day when she was in the hospital. She refers to Jocelyn as her adopted daughter. Veronica is the definition of compassionate service. She told me that she comforted Jocelyn by calling some of the RM Sisters that used to teach Jocelyn, and telling her of how much Sister Nonu, Sister Mendez, and I love her. I definitely did not realize it then, but I am so grateful that the Lord gave me to privilege to help prepare Jocelyn for the Spirit World. And I know she was ready. When I first got to Oton and began teaching her she wasn't very committed to living the gospel, but as she learned to rely on the Lord more because of her health, she became so humble and a real lover of the scriptures. Her testimony grew so much! It was amazing to see. Even though she was never able to get active again, I know she was prepared. 

This week, I learned what my covenants really mean to me. We went to try and contact a less-active member for the umpteenth time, and finally she was home. Sister S. right away said to us that she still has her testimony, but she feels she just can't attend church. She didn't give any names, but she just described that she felt many of the teachers or leaders were being hypocrites because they would teach one thing on Sunday, but then she knew they weren't living those things. She said she reached a breaking point and decided she could not associate with them anymore, so she stopped going to church. But she repeatedly assured us that her testimony is still strong and she knows the church is true. I know it must have been a very difficult thing for her to experience. The church is full of people who sin, and none of us are perfect. But I know that it is truly Christ's church. And His gospel is perfect. We shared out of 1 Nephi 8 with her. As a missionary, it is a really neat thing when you know the Spirit is speaking through you, because you learn from the things you are saying. As I was able to testify to her, the Spirit testified to me of what I was saying. That she had made covenants with the Lord, and she should not let others get in the way of that. I know that the baptismal and temple covenants I have made with the Lord are the most important thing. I can never, and will never, let anyone or anything stand in the way of my covenants. The Spirit testified to me of that truth and strengthened my conviction of why I am here serving a mission. Because I promised to do so when I signed my mission call acceptance letter.

In my Old Testament reading this week, I have been reading about Israel and his family, and Joseph of Egypt (latter chapters of Genesis). I was impressed by how strong his faith and trust in God is, that even though he was terribly rejected by his brothers, he could see that even that was part of God's plan. And so he forgave them completely. Joseph could see how in his own life, the Lord had a plan for him to become a great leader. And in the even bigger picture, as the Pharoah's right hand man, Joseph helped the Lord keep his covenant to the descendants of Abraham, because if Joseph's family had all starved in the famine of Egypt, then that would've been the end of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God's plan is really so much bigger than we can even comprehend, and even He has to make huge sacrifices to keep up His end of our covenants. 

We had another MLC on Wednesday. Fun times. Pres. Aquino is helping us get better at budgeting our support funds. This week's funny: One of the LA families gave us a huge food storage can of bacon bits. hahaha. Their auntie shipped it to them from the US, and they think they taste yucky and they don't know what to put them on. So now we need to figure out what to do with a ton of bacon bits. Yum. 

I love you all and I hope you have a wonderful week! Stay warm! Meanwhile, everyone over here is pulling out their coats because it is 76 degrees. :P Halong!
Endure and enjoy!! Read, pray, church, tithing, temple. ...and Be Happy!!! 

Love, Sister Winward

Sister Cassie Winward
Philippines Iloilo Mission
May 2013 to November 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Of Mice and Men (and Bats in Caves)

Dearest Family, 

How are you all doing? How was the New Year for all of you. Hopefully 2014 is a blast so far! So, do I have some stories for you all! Hopefully you will all laugh as hard as I have been this week. 

Today we got to go CAVING!!! It was soooo cool. And, unfortunately, this computer is not cooperating, so you'll have to wait until next week for pictures. We went up to Dingley and hiked and slipped in mud and had a great time. There were tons of bats and these creepy red spiders. It was way sweet. And gross. But mostly awesome. And the best leg work out ever in my life. haha. "It's more FUN in the Philippines." 

New Year's Eve was another normal day, except that we had to be home early. Our friendly neighborhood gymnasium was BLASTING music until like 4am. And lots of firecrackers were going off all night. I'm pretty sure I sang along to YMCA when I was half asleep at 3am. Fun for us.

Funny #1: Apartment CSP day. Should be called Apartment TLC day. The first Friday of every month we have an apartment deep clean. We've been having some creature problems....mice and cockroaches. I'm not too phased by it, but Sister Rappleye has declared war on them. So on Fridayshe found the mouse's bed and destroyed its hope of survival. It was hilarious because every time a mouse came scurrying out, she screamed her head off. Heh...heh...heh...  We still haven't caught them all. 

Funny#2: Thursday, we went to teach Brother Vicinte (the one going to the UAE, who we are afraid is only coming to church because he likes us). His relative is perpetually drunk. And the drunk man decided to join the lesson. So we're going along, trying to teach Brother Vicinte the Law of Chastity, amidst the drunk man's random comments (Sister Marchant had to spend most of the time trying to get him to stay quiet, like a child), when all of a sudden he tries to kiss my companion! He was like an inch away.  So, Sister Marchant hopped up and sat on the other side of me to get away with him and we finished the lesson and left quick. Awkward.... 

Funny#3: We tracted this house in a rich subdivision last Monday, so we went back to teach John and his sister Queenie, but it was just John home. So, we have this awesome missionary rule that we cannot just teach men inside a house, there always has to be another woman, so we taught him on his front porch. (I am repeatedly grateful for that rule. Hallelujah.) Awkward #1 was right when he opened the gate to let us in, I went to give him a handshake, and he pulled my hand up and kissed it. Yuck. Then, after we taught him about prophets and the priesthood, his only question was something along the lines of whether he is allowed to kiss us/kiss our hands. No, John, just No. And the whole lesson he kept inviting us in, even though we explained to him like 5 times about the rule. Um, yeah, let's just say, maybe he's not ready yet. We're not here to be flirted at! Listen to the gospel, gosh darnit!

Funny#4: Well, our concerns about Brother Vicinte were confirmed yesterday. It went like this: On Saturday, we went back to teach him again, but drunk man was there, so we said we could teach Vicinte on Sunday at the chapel after church instead. So he came to church (Yay!). And he waited so we could get one of the YSA men, Roy, to join the lesson. Vicinte had mentioned that he had a question about his BOM reading, so he reads the passage 1 Nephi 6:5-6 and 1 Nephi 7:1.....

"Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men. And now I would that ye might know, that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of prophesying concerning his seed, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again, saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take daughters to wife, that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.

So, he reads this out loud, then addresses his question to Roy. He says how here the Lord says people are supposed to get married, and since he's 38 and single, if he gets baptized will he be able to date the members, and more specifically, will he be able to get married to one of us missionaries. WHAT. ON. EARTH. How is it that our only progressing investigator is just in love with us? Grabe! And so Roy (props to Roy), explains that we have consecrated this 18 months to the Lord to teach people the gospel, and no he can't date us, and when we're done we'll return to America. So then, Vicinte basically says he'll wait that long and can we come back to the Philippines. NO. I explained my purpose here, and why we're teaching him. Pretty sure we've already told him this multiple times. Talk about awkward. Sister Marchant was so red in the face, and had to bite her fist to keep from laughing. I just didn't look at her because I knew I would bust up laughing if I did. Then we taught him about the premortal life and how the Lord definitely has a plan for him...Most Awkward Lesson Ever..... The good news: Brother Vicinte leaves for the UAE this week probably, and we have given him info about the LDS meetinghouses available there. And Roy said he'll come with us for any other lessons with Vicinte. 

So to prevent all of this from happening again we've concluded we either need to tell everyone we're nuns, or go "The Other Side of Heaven" style and carry around pictures of the boys that are waiting for us.  

In better news, Charity's aunt, Christine listened to us again! She is pretty determined to go to church this Sunday. She said she is really sorry she can't sit for lessons all the time, she's so busy, but she always wants to. If only she would let us do her laundry for her one of these days! And, even though we were super punted on Saturday, Heavenly Father blessed us with the most gorgeous sunset over a beautiful rice field to enjoy while we walked. Tender Mercy! Sister Marchant and I have been entertaining ourselves by speaking in a Jersey accent. haha. And, our mission has a reading challenge this year to read all 4 standard works by the end of the year. I'm doing alright keeping up in the Old Testament this week. Yay! 

I hope you all have a great week back at school. Point your faith toward the future. Great things will come in 2014! I love you all! 

Love, Sister Winward

P.S. Don't any of you worry, we are following the rules and staying safe. Don't be alarmed. Just laugh. :P 
P.P.S. And I still know that there are decent, sober men left in the world. Hallelujah. 

Sister Cassie Winward
Philippines Iloilo Mission
May 2013 to November 2014