Kumusta kamo? I am doing well this week, though the week began on a very somber note. Last Monday night, at about, 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 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, 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. 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