Here it is the last week of my second transfer. It’s going by fast already. I love being here. I love being a missionary. And I LOVE GENERAL CONFERENCE. Sorry a little late to the party on that one, but when you are a missionary General Conference is pretty much more exciting than Christmas or if you know me, more exciting than Valentine’s Day! Ha. Plus we also had zone conference this week too. One of the best parts of being on a mission is getting to be taught by President and Sister Dahle and to see how the Spirit works through each of them. And also how they work together to help us as missionaries.
During zone conference, President Dahle got up and said how he felt like there was a lack of energy in the room. He then said he wanted to do something a little different to help change the spirit of the meeting. He had us pull out our Preach My Gospels and read from the section there about The Atonement. He said we would conduct the reading like a testimony meeting, whoever felt inspired to come up and read aloud could come and read from that section. Because my companion is so awesome and has helped me so much being my follow up trainer, she helped me earlier in this transfer to better understand the importance of these newsletter type emails we get each week called the Weekly Handoff. So I have been printing them and reading them much more thoroughly thanks to her… (because before I didn’t really do that, just sorta read them a little and moved on)
So in the weekly handoff there were specific instructions for us, ways we could read and prepare for Zone Meeting, and one personal study earlier in the week I decided to study directly out of there. So I had the opportunity before Zone Meeting to read this section of Preach My Gospel, from Lesson 2 Plan of Salvation
To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that. He was called and prepared in pre-Earth life. He was the literal Son of God in the flesh. He was sinless and completely obedient to His Father. Though tempted, He never gave in to temptation. When the Father asked His Beloved Son to pay the price of the world’s sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection. Though He suffered beyond comprehension—so much so that He bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him—He submitted to the Father’s will in a supreme expression of love for His Father and for us. This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement.
When I read that during personal study, I had this burning feeling in my chest. I was once asked by someone: Do you think you will ever understand the Atonement? And I replied with “No, I don’t think so, but I will spend my life trying.” Being a missionary is awesome, it’s happy and more rewarding than any other work, but there’s also the feelings that come to any human heart especially when really putting forth every effort into something. That feeling is the feeling President Holland spoke about in his talk from conference that accompany every single person. As all of us are fallen, as all of us are imperfect before Christ. And so when I read that sentence in Preach my Gospel, my heart suddenly felt lighter, the hard parts of missionary work, the times we feel discouraged, inadequate, or not good enough, all those feelings were washed away for me in that sentence.
So going back to zone conference, as soon as President Dahle asked us to read as if it were a testimony, my heart begin to beat out of my chest. I knew I needed to read that paragraph I had read in personal study earlier in the week. After one or two people had read the first few paragraphs of that section, I got up and walked to the podium. I actually had to convince a Filipino Elder in my district to switch with me so I could read that particular paragraph. Then I got up and in front of the whole zone read that paragraph, starting to cry as I reached the sentence in bold above. After we finished that section, we watched President Euchtdorf’s talk from conference. A sweet peace and stillness filled our conference, as we all understand the WHY of the Gospel, the WHY of the mission, the WHY of obedience. Si Jesucristo,ang Tagapagligtas natin.
I am so thankful for this experience and I am thankful for President Dahle and Sister Dahle and their inspiration. President Dahle said they had counseled together and decided it was good to change the format and direction of the meeting. I am so glad they listened to that prompting because it didn’t just change the meeting, it changed me. Of course after I got up, I had immediate “vulnerability regret”(Brene Brown), feeling a little embarassed to have cried in front of so many people that I hardly know. But truly, I have no regret about that moment because of the way it strengthened my testimony to bear it.
All of that was on Thursday for zone conference. And it was awesome because then we just had one more day and then GENERAL CONFERENCE.
And that of course was so great and made even better by being a missionary and being in the Philippines. Especially when I heard the story from Bishop Clausse in conference about the modern day African pioneers who walked 300 miles to hear conference and then walked 300 miles back with a large box of Book of Mormons. There are people here in the Philippines that I see that are like that. I thought to myself when I heard that story “Would I do that for my faith?” I am not sure I would. Though I hope someday my faith will become strong enough and deep enough that I would answer that with an unequivocal: Yes!
As we concluded conference, the choir sang “Lord I would Follow Thee” Along with a few other meek, quiet voices in the small congregation for Sunday Afternoon(less than 20 present probably) I begin to sing quietly along with the choir. I looked around the room to see who else was singing, as I did I saw the Lizada siblings. These siblings are incredible. They work so, so hard for the good of the Church. Sis Maria is the YW president. Bro Efren is in the Branch Presidency and has a calling in the district too, their younger sister is in the young women presidency too. Magtatag sila talaga. Sis Lizada just got home from her mission in February. They are both YSA. Working hard on my mission, I am not sure I would want to go home and hold some kind of big calling in the Church. But these siblings are willing to work and work. To truly give all their time talents and resources to the Lord. As I looked at them singing “Lord I would Follow Thee” my heart swelled. I realized who I want to be after my mission. I want to be like Sis Maria Lizada. After the prayer, I came up to her and told her how I felt, how I admired her willingness to serve the Young Women here in this Branch. It’s not always easy for them, and neither is it for any of the members here who are really the supports of the Branch. But like those modern day pioneers in Africa, they are willing and they are happy.
These siblings are even more incredible to me because neither of their parents have been completely active their whole lives. Tatay Lizada has only been to Church on the day he was confirmed. Their mom has been up and down with church activity. We have lately had the privilege to visit with Nanay Aurora in order to help her prepare to enter the temple. Every lesson we usually ask the people we teach to give the closing prayer. So we asked Nanay Aurora to pray in our first lesson with her. Her prayer was sweet and powerful as she prayed to be strengthened in herself before going to the temple next month. It was the first time Sis Maria ever heard her mom pray.
These are the kinds of moments we get to be part of as missionaries. There is nothing better. Nothing sweeter. I love being here. Transfer day is next week and there is a mix of emotions but I know that it will all be directed by the Lord. I have loved serving here in Liozon and have met so many people I will remember for the rest of my life. Of course I wish I could tell you about all of them, but walang horas na!
I really want to share the story of Elder Escobal but I don’t have time to type it up so here are my companions words
“This week we were able to attend the Funeral Service of Brother Virgilio Escobal. This man and his sweet family really touched my heart. Brother Al passed away this last week from cancer. He found out about this cancer about 2 months ago and it was already in stage 4. Me and Sister Mclean had the privilege of visiting with him a couple times in the last days of his life. I will never forget that sweet moments as we were able to read together form the book of mormon, pray together and most of all the spirit that was there to give comfort. I will also never forget the moment when brother Virgilio lifted up his week head and we looked each other in the eye and smiled. Those moments will always be in my heart, especially because I was able to share moments with him, while his son Elder Escobal who is serving in the Davao mission couldn’t. When Elder Escobal left on his mission they had no idea that his dad had cancer. They informed him of his dads condition as soon as they found out and this last week when he passed away Elder Esobal was able to come home to attend his funeral service. I will never forget the opportunity that we had to sit with Elder Escobal and talk to him about his mission. He is so meek and so faithful, i look up to him so much. He will be returning to finish his mission tomorrow. I am so thankful for the spirit and for the power, strength, comfort and assurance that it brings. I am so thankful for faithful examples like Brother and Elder Escobal. I am even more thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ, because of his atoning sacrifice death has no sting!”
Just to add to her story, Elder Escobal is home for just a few days for the funeral of his father before returning to his mission. Across the street from his father’s funeral, there was another funeral we were attending for another member that died. During the service, I looked up and saw Elder Escobal sitting there too. Even in the middle of his own grief and his family’s grief, he had taken the time to go to another funeral. “What an amazing example of Christlike love for others” I thought. Truly truly so many people here who are shining examples to me.
Last of all, I would like to invite each of you to study the talk about fasting from Pres. Eyring. Think of the people here in the Philippines when you fill out your little slip. We are a worldwide church and more than that a worldwide family.
I love all of you. I pray for you. Mahal na mahal kita. Mahal kayo ni Jesucristo.
Here is a pic of the sweetest angel Nanay we met on the street the other day. We literally had to look twice and pinch ourselves because we thought maybe she was actually just a visiting angel.
These two girls are the nieces of Sis Baby. Their names are Andrea and Isai. They are best friends and cousins and so so cute. They were laughing and pointing to Sis Dahl and I saying, “I am her” “and you be her”
Sister Dahle and Sister McLean
Oh and here is a patay chicken. We did not kill it. Found Sis Baby walking around with in in her hand holding by the feet like it was no big deal. Sis Dahl thought it was a payong(umbrella) and then she thought it was still alive. Anyway, there you go! Dinner for the family!
From Sister Dahl, (Marissa’s companion):
Wow! What a great General Conference! We are so blessed! I loved so so so much from it. I can’t wait to study and read the talks again and go through and highlight the things that prick at my heart and strive to work on those things!
This week we were able to attend the Funeral Service of Brother Al Escobal. This man and his sweet family really touched my heart. Brother Al passed away this last week from cancer. He found out about this cancer about 2 months ago and it was already in stage 4. Me and Sister Mclean had the privilege of visiting with him a couple times in the last days of his life. I will never forget that sweet moments as we were able to read together form the book of mormom, pray together and most of all the spirit that was there to give comfort. I will also never forget the moment when brother Al lifted up his week head and we looked each other in the eye and smiled. Those moments will always be in my heart, especially because I was able to share moments with him, while his son Elder Escobal who is serving in the Davao mission couldn’t. When Edler Escobal left on his mission they had no idea that his dad had cancer. They informed him of his dads condition as soon as they found out and this last week when he passed away Elder Esobal was able to come home to attend his funeral service. I will never forget the opportunity that we had to sit with Elder Escobal and talk to him about his mission. He is so meek and so faithful, i look up to him so much. He will be returning to finish his mission tomorrow. I am so thankful for the spirit and for the power, strength, comfort and assurance that it brings. I am so thankful for faithful examples like Brother and Elder Escobal. I am even more thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ, because of his atoning sacrifice death has no sting!
Okay one more touching story this week. There was one day this last week that was just hard for me, I felt as though I was just going through the motions and because of that it just wasn’t the funnest and best day, until Heavenly Father placed the perfect little angel in the path of me and Sister Mclean, here name was Nanay Zoila!!! She is perfect!! She was just sitting on a little bench on the side of the road and when I saw her, my heart immediately smiled! I knew my day was better! We got to sit down and talk to her and laugh and hold each others hands! As we walked away I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure she was still there because I literally thought that she might have been a real angel hahaha! She was still there and my day was made, Heavenly Father knows us all so personally and individually and knows the exact people and things that will make us happy!
I love being a missionary, I love this gospel. I love our prophet and leaders of this church. I love prophet Joseph Smith. I love the plan of God. I love my Savior Jesus Christ!
We’ve got dinner!