Monday, August 26, 2013

Second week in the Pines

No more washing machine... :(

Bububugin kita! Joke lang, that means I'm going to punch you. Learned that one from the Sister Training Leaders. So I'm just busy feeling like a movie star here in the Philippines. The girls in the ward all want pictures and they want to know what shampoo I use and as I walk down the street, everyone stares and smiles and usually there is someone yelling that I'm beautiful haha :) It's quite the confidence booster. I'm going to feel so normal when I get back to the States where white skin, blue eyes, and pointy noses are everywhere. At least people will understand my sarcasm there though. No one thinks I'm funny except Sister Smart here.  

As of last week the strangest thing I'd eaten was a cheese whiz sandwich. As of yesterday, things got weird. I had caviar, an avocado milkshake (which was surprisingly awesome), and dinuguan, which is pig's blood and intestines soup. YUM! It wasn't awful, it was just weird. 

So missions are hard. I don't know if you've ever heard anyone say that before, but you probably have. This week was rough. It started out with us going to visit a less active member and here you say "Tao po!" because they don't have doorbells and some don't have doors. When we said it, the neighbor came out instead and we ended up teaching them! Rosalina is 68 and her husband passed away a few years ago and her daughter Jeannette, is 34 and has 3 kids, one of which passed away as a baby. So we talked all about eternal families and I knew Jeannette felt something, maybe she was just remembering her son, I don't know. But we came back the next day and she was busy but had read the pamphlet and looked excited. Next day, she came out and told us she was Catholic and didn't need anything else. And with that came a real taste of one side of missionary work: Rejection. Appointment after appointment fell through and our investigator pool is still pretty empty. 

On top of that, I'd been feeling super homesick. I just wished something could be the same. If I had to leave my family, learn a new language, and adjust to a new culture and lifestyle, couldn't I just have AC or a normal bowl of cereal and milk? Couldn't it just be easier? Well, no. It couldn't. Missions are hard. Everyone says that but no one ever really says why. Well, in my short time as a missionary, I'm starting to figure it out. There are days that you are sure you can't do it and you want to call the President and tell him you want to go home. Missions are spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting and you will be pushed to your limits. But as I sat thinking I can't, I was reminded of Elder David A. Bednar's talk, "Character of Christ " from the MTC. Look it up. It's amazing. He talks about how when the natural man turns in, Christ turned out. He asks the  question "Who gets your attention in affliction? Yourself or others?" And he tells the story of a woman who heard that her daughter and a couple other girls had been in an accident and one had died. When she found out it was her daughter, she immediately called the other mothers and made sure they were okay and asked what she could do. She turned out when she had every right to turn in. This mission isn't about me and it isn't about things being my way. I realized how selfish I was being. I was turning in when I should be turning out. It isn't about what I want or I think I need. In 16 more months I can have AC and milk and cereal. But right now, it's not about me. I thought it was hard at first. How could I turn out, forget myself and go to work, when we don't have any investigators and I can't speak the language? But I can pray for others. I can help my companion. I can focus on preparing myself to teach the people Heavenly Father will surely lead me to. 

I also read Elder Holland's talk, "The Miracle of a Mission." (Thanks Ave and Amanda!) It was a lifesaver. FUTURE MISSIONARIES, TAKE THIS WITH YOU! There are so many good things, you just have to read it but what stuck out to me was when he said that as missionaries, we are the most prayed for people on the planet and that President Monson prays for us everyday, because we're his teammates. I'm on a team with the prophet! It also says "So don't worry about being homesick. Don't worry about being new. Don't worry about the language. None of that matters. It will not matter. God loves you and this is the truth and you can do it!" He also talks about the apostles and prophets give their lives for this work, 40-50 years. All they are asking for is just 2 years or just 18 months. He says, "We just want 18 months from you. So start now. Just don't look back. Put your face to the sun and and put your shoulder into this work, and give it everything you've got and savor every day!" Don't look back. I'm on a mission because my bishop told me once I'd made a decision, not to look back. I'm here because two missionaries in Panguitch told me not to doubt my decision. Now President Holland is telling me the same thing. So maybe I should just do it and quit worrying :)

Then we met a 10 year old boy who flagged us down by yelling "Elders!" haha :) He goes to church every Sunday, his sister is a member, his mom is a member. He lives with his grandparents who are not members. Kyle is the cutest thing ever and his grandma is the nicest lady! She said we could come back whenever we wanted. They live just down the street from us. I don't know what will happen, but I'm sure glad he stopped us!

So even with those awesome talks, there are still a lot of moments I feel a little homesick or a lot homesick and a little discouraged. So here's your assignment: Email me or send me a letter with a quote, a scripture, a song, a story, anything that helps you keep going when the going gets tough. Something I can think of when I'm feeling like quitting. 

Hope you all have an awesome week! Mahal na mahal kita!

XOXO, Sister Brown

Note from mom:  So it took me a week to get my computer set up to actually get last weeks pictures....and sadly for some reason there were no new pictures this week! :(  ...So figured I'd just include last week pics so you can see what things are like where she is at! :)

Off to the Philippines
District D...what a great bunch! :)
First plane ride...

Arriving in style :)
New companion...sweet Sister Calla

New apartment all the bright colors
Bathroom...minus the TP :/
Trikes and the rainy season...

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Week sa Pilipinas!‏

District D before heading to the Pines! (Only picture I got!) :(

Kamusta po kayo everyone? So I made it to the Philippines. Like I am actually there. It's kinda crazy! Also, I flew on an airplane!!! I loved it! The 10 hour flight was killer though. The second I stepped off the plane I realized they don't have dry air here. It is non-existent. It's so.... sticky here. Like all the time. I'm actually grateful that our showers have only cold water! And yes, we have an actual shower. And a flushing toilet. But no toilet paper. 

We got to Manila around 11pm Tuesday night so we stayed in a hotel in Manila. And guess what. THEY HAD A PET MONKEY!!! Life made. They also had foot-long cockroaches. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration. More like big toe sized. Then we rode a bus to the mission home and stayed their for orientation for a couple of days. Thursday we met our trainers and headed off into the world! 

My trainer is Sister Calla. She is 23, 4'11", native Filipina, and so, so sweet!  She also speaks pretty good English so that's good. We are re-opening Canlubang area 1 which means no investigators, no area book, nothing. So we get to start from scratch. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. We're in the city and share a pretty nice apartment (I'll send pics if I have time) with 2 other sisters, Sis. Smart and Sis. Banzali. Sis. Smart is American, 19, and has only been here 6 weeks so it's really nice to talk to her because she totally knows how I feel. 

For the past few days we've mostly just gone out with them to meet members and get oriented with the area. It's pretty big. We have 5 or 6 barangays, which are like gated communities/neighborhoods. It's been really cool to see them teach a couple of times so I can see what it's like. 

So I thought they prepared me in the MTC... yeah, not so much. I don't know Tagalog, but luckily a lot of people speak pretty good English. Tagalog has no rules. Sister Calla keeps telling me words don't follow the rules because it's "mas maganda" to hear. You know what's mas maganda? English. Joke lang... kinda. No everyone here keeps telling me my Tagalog is pretty good for how long I've been here and I'm sure I'll get it. People think it's so cool to hear the white girl speak Tagalog. I can't wait until I actually can so they can be really amazed haha :) 

So what are the Philippines like? It is always noisy, kinda dirty, and absolutely beautiful here! And wet. There are dogs and cats EVERYWHERE.

There are also chickens running around all the time. It's really green and pretty. Random Filipino facts, the lanes in the roads are more like guidelines that everyone ignores. It's terrifying but everyone is a really good driver here. Everyone sells things from their front yards. Whatever they have. Ice, some kind of food, motorcycle fixing services, clothes. They love Spam. It's like a delicacy here. They all want to be white. They even have skin-whitening soap! And finally they are the nicest people you will ever meet! The members have all been so welcoming and keep assuring me I'll get the language and get used to everything. The children are absolutely adorable! I really do love it here!

Not gonna lie though, it's a roller coaster and I miss home some days. I woke up the other day feeling like there was no way I could do this. I couldn't be this hot, this sweaty, this tired all day everyday for 18 months. My family was so far away and I couldn't talk to anyone here. But future missionaries, don't ever let days like that stop you. Roller coasters always have an upswing. It rained for the first time that day and that was such a tender mercy. I read some letters I brought with me from the MTC and it totally helped me out. So even though it's far away and it might take awhile, write me letters. They really help on homesick days. 

So with mail, DearElders are free through pouch mail. I'll get them whenever I go to the mission home which is once a month usually. Or you can send pouch mail (google it) or regular snail mail. I know a lot of you have emailed me and I love getting your emails but  I don't always have time to respond to all of them, so be patient. My new address is:

Sister Shalee Brown
San Pablo Philippines Mission
Brgy, San Juan
Alaminos, Laguna 4001

Future Missionary Advice:
  • Buy a tracker phone with so many minutes to use to call your parents at the airport. It's a lot more reliable and convenient than using a phone card and pay phone.
  • Bring snacks for the mission, not just the MTC. You will miss your fave American foods.
Well, I miss and love you all! Until next week and the adventure continues!
Mahal kita!

XOXO, Sister Brown

P.S.  Everyone thinks it's hilarious that my name is Sis Brown but I'm white. I've heard it every single time I've introduced myself haha :) My companion introduces me and uses the joke to get people's attention and start talking to them about the gospel haha :) Also everyone keeps asking about my leg and I've assigned Sis Banzali to explain because I have NO clue how to do it in Tagalog. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Off to the Philippines!!!

The picture we drew for our teachers to remember their favorite district by :)
(love Shalee stick prosthetic leg)
Kamusta po kayo magandang magandang mga tao?

So in case you didn't know, I'M GOING TO THE PHILIPPINES IN 2 DAYS!!!! Which means in exactly 2 days I will be taking my very first airplane ride ever... I AM SO EXCITED!!!! This week was rough for all of us because how are you supposed to focus when you're leaving the country to go teach the gospel in a few days?? You just can't. However  I did enjoy my last week with milk, real showers, tiny baby spiders, and yep, toilet paper.

On Wednesday we taught Del our last lesson and guess what... he'd finally read the Book of Mormon. And guess what else...we invited him to be baptized. And he said yes! He said he'd go to church on Sunday with his kids and try to get his wife to come too even though she probably wouldn't. It was really emotional, partly because we had to tell him we were leaving and there would be new missionaries coming to help him continue preparing for baptism and partly because even though it wasn't a real investigator, it was a real situation. This man was willing to be baptized because he knew it was what he needed to do, even though it was going to potentially cause a lot of trials for him and his wife. It was touching to see what people are going to be willing to do, what  they will be willing to give up, for what they know is true. It reminds me a lot of the pioneers. The people we teach will be modern day pioneers :)

Friday we taught Teresa her last lesson and let me tell you how that went. There was nothing particularly special about what we said or did, but the whole time we were there I just couldn't stop smiling! I was just so happy and I wanted her to be that happy. I felt this overwhelming feeling of peace as I realized this was our last lesson with a fake investigator. The next person I taught was going to be someone who really doesn't know what I know and really needs to know how much his or her Heavenly Father loves them. And I knew I was going exactly where I was needed. I've struggled with this quite a bit over the last couple of months. I don't know why I was called to the Philippines. I don't know why I was called to go right away while all my friends had to wait all summer. But time and time again, things like this have happened and finally I think I get it. I do not know all things, but the Lord does. He knows where I am supposed to be and when I need to be there. He knows which companions I need, which doors I should knock on, what words I should say, and without a doubt in my mind, I know that there is someone in the Philippines San Pablo Mission who needs me. There is someone in Santa Ana, El Salvador who needs Hermana Groneman. There is someone in Mexico City who needs Hermana Veater. There is someone in Lima, Peru who needs Elder Grover. There is someone in Japan who needs Sister Dansie. And there's a good chance that that person has been waiting for you for a long time and only you can say or do the thing that must be said or done to bring them to Christ.

We had in-field orientation for 9 hours yesterday. I was expecting it to be awful but it was actually pretty fun! We split into groups and then came back together in between each one to summarize. We talked about the principles of our purpose as missionaries, finding, making goals and planning, contacting, and acting in faith. One of the things I really liked was in the Our Purpose part. Listen up all you future missionaries! There is a story about President Monson when he was a mission president in Canada. There was an area that none of the missionaries wanted to go to called Kingston because there had been only 1 baptism in 6 years. They all said that the people simply weren't ready. Well President Monson found out that a long time ago Brigham young had baptized 40 people in 30 days in Kingston. So he closed the area. Then he waited for all the missionaries who knew about Kingston and it's reputation as an undesirable area to leave. And then he started a rumor, a rumor that back in the day Brigham Young had baptized 40 people in 30 days there and suddenly missionaries were begging to be let into the area. And guess what, in the next 3 months 86 people were baptized! So what was the problem? It wasn't that the people weren't ready.We were told we were not just called to have a good time, we were called to baptize. You may have a senior companion who says "The people in this area just aren't ready. We won't baptize anyone." In the scriptures the phrase "The field is white and ready to harvest..." is used 52 times. Who are you to say that the people aren't ready? If the Lord says they're ready, they are! We must stop having expectations that people have set and start having expectations the Lord has set. I think that that is very profound advice.

On Thursday we went on a pretend Jeepney ride and tried to share the gospel with one another acting as passengers. It was an eye-opening experience. As in, I do not know Tagalog and I'm about to be thrown into a completely different culture. In a Jeepney everyone just passes up their money and calls out where they are going and if it's too much, the driver passes back your change. And you don't have to worry about anyone stealing your money. You just, like, flick the roof when you wanna stop and the driver stops. You can get on anywhere, they don't have assigned stops. Because of our inability to focus, our teachers gave up a little and started to give in to us begging them to tell us stories about their missions. So between the stories and pictures we got to see this week, I just wanna be there! Except the picture of the spider as big as my head, that one I could do without... Other than that, I am going to the most beautiful mission! I didn't believe some of Brother Trebas' photos were real they were so beautiful!

I saw George again and got a picture so you could all see how cool he is :) Honestly, this week our district wasn't super funny. We are all sick and 6 weeks with one another might be causing a little tension between some of us. But no worries, we still love each other. Some days people are just closer to getting punched than others haha joke lang!

Quote of the week: "What?! I thought I was in the Philippines! I thought everyone was interested in the gospel!" - Sis. Osborn

Well I want you all to know how much I love and appreciate you and all that you have done for me! I am so excited to finally get out there and serve the Lord and bring people the happiness the gospel brings me. Alam ko po na sa lahat puso ko, tagapagligtas po si Jesucristo. Alam ko po na mahal na mahal po tayo ng Diyos. Alam ko po na propeta totoo si Joseph Smith. Alam ko po na sa pamamagitan ng pagbabayad-sala ni Jesucristo, magiging malinis mula sa kasalanan natin. Alam ko po na totoo ng Simbahan ni Jesucristo ng mga Banal na mga Huling Araw.

Mahal ko kayo! Next time you hear from me I'll be in the Pines and probably fluent in Tagalog... ;)

XOXO, Sister Brown

Okay so since my kasamas all had their best friends here at the MTC with them, I wanted mine to be here too! So here we are, all over the world. I love you and miss you all!

Our adorable Branch Presidency people
Sister Brown and Sister Brown with our matching shirts, I love this girl! 

Joke lang! (just kidding Filipino style)
We smell the Creamsicle tree whenever we need a little happiness :)
Elder Adamson and Elder Milligan... Just being themselves

It was SOOO hot! We might melt in the Philippines!

Saturday, August 3, 2013



Kamusta ng pamilya ko at ng kaibigan ko?! (hello my family and my friends)
So I survived another week in the MTC without having to give a talk in sacrament. Each week we have to prepare one, in Tagalog, and then 2 random people are chosen. It's a good time. Sometimes I feel like I'm actually serving in the Provo MTC Mission and like at the end of my never-ending 6 weeks I'm just going to go home. But then it got real up in here. WE GOT OUR FLIGHT PLANS!!!!!!!! I'm like really going to the Philippines. On Monday, August 12th I'll be flying to Portland, OR then to Tokyo, Japan and finally to Manila City!  I've never been on an airplane before so basically I'm stoked! Plus, even though there are 15 of us San Pablo missionaries, we are all on the same flight in the same travel group! Yay for not being split up! I love my district too much to have been able to handle that. Also, I think I'm ready because last Saturday we taught TRC which is kind of like visiting teaching with natives or RM's and we talked to this adorable Filipino lady who took the whole lesson assuring us we won't have to eat dog and that that's not a normal thing in the Philippines. And I learned this word: Nakakapagpabagabag. It means bothersome. Yeah. Anyways, this is your last week to write to me in the MTC. If you wanna DearElder me (which i would love), you have until 5:00 Friday night and if you wanna write to me (which i would also love) it has to be here by Saturday morning.
More happenings in the district, Sister Smith the witch doctor read my feet! It's crazy how accurate it was. I did end up getting the plague, but it was a more mild version and I've been just fine. Plus Nanay Smith has been taking good care of me and making me take some nasty medicine. We said goodbye to 18 sisters on Monday and gained 11 on Wednesday! They're adorable and I love them because one of them is named Sister Brown and knows Amanda, one of them, Sister Lutui, knows Sione, and another one, Sister Warr, knows Jeremy I think. It's like I'm a little closer to some of my best friends now! Our Elders are as great as ever although I think they're getting a little tired of being all together all the time. We got to teach one another in class on Tuesday and we just had to ask them questions and then teach them something that the spirit led us to teach. It was awesome because we really got to talk about our lives kind of for the first time and pretty much all of us ended up crying. I taught our teacher, Sister Osborn, and she taught me and it was perfect. We talked about how I was kind of worried about my family, especially my brother and sister, and she shared a scripture, I can't remember exactly what it was, but I think it was D&C 30:1-6. If it starts with Thomas my son, then it's the right one. Just change it to Shalee, my daughter. It was so comforting and a testimony to me that the spirit is real and if we're listening it will always guide us. It was just cool to realize that all of us have such different backgrounds and we all have our own struggles and our own strengths. We all have something to offer and there is someone in the San Pablo mission who needs us and our experiences.
As far as our investigators go, Del and Teresa each have 1-2 more lessons before we leave. Teresa committed to be baptized as long as her family said it was okay and she's talking to them this weekend! She is seriously so adorable and I just have this overwhelming desire for her to know we love her and her Heavenly Father loves her. She's coming to church this week! Yay! I say this every time, but it's just crazy how invested I get in these fake investigators. I can't even imagine how it'll be when we actually get to the Philippines! Del, Del is ready. And in our lesson Thursday morning we were planning on committing him to be baptized. But we all chickened out and I walked out of that lesson feeling like, like, well like a chick flick. You know when the perfect moment comes and the guy doesn't take it? But then he always comes running back in the rain or something? Well I wanted to run back into the room like that, only I wanted to tell "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized?" Listen to the spirit. When you think, hey I should do this, do it. I'm glad to be learning this lesson in the MTC and not in the field where it really counts. Hopefully this week we'll do better with him :)
And now for the most astig thing of the week, we got selected to do How To Begin Teaching Demos for the new missionaries. So basically, a teacher recommends a companionship and then only 12 companionships are chosen each Wednesday. This is how it works. We are given a bio on an investigator and then we knock on a door that leads to a big room with 80 new missionaries and a little set up living room where there is an investigator. We use things from Preach My Gospel's How To Begin Teaching, which is basically getting to know them and asking questions that will hopefully help you find a way to connect the gospel to them and their lives. I loved it my first night and I loved it this time! The very first investigator we taught  was George Cepull. He's this little old man who is a little sassy, but so cute. And guess what!!! He was an amputee!!! It was awesome because he saw that I was as well and we were able to talk about it a little bit and he felt like he could really connect with me because I really did understand where he was coming from. It was such a blessing! Most of these investigators are actually converts who act out their story, so everything they say is 100% genuine. We tried to go back and talk to him but he wouldn't tell us much about his life now, he had to keep acting as an investigator. Well guess what! The next day we walked out of our building and there he was with a couple of Elders! We waited for him to finish up and then we talked to him some more. He gave us his address and told us we could write to him if we wanted and he'd write back and send us little bits of his art, he's an artist. I know that people are placed in our paths for a reason and I'm so glad he was placed in mine twice!
Spiritual thought and future missionary advice of the week, salvation is not a cheap experience. How could we ever think it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? We are allowed to spend just a few moments in Gethsemane. It's supposed to be hard. But the Savior knows how to comfort us perfectly. He knows how we feel. He knows how hard it is, but it is never as hard as it was for Him and if He could do that, I can do this. Don't give up, don't quit. Someone out there needs you.
Have a great week loves! Mahal Kita!
XOXO, Sister Brown

Picnic with our Elders

Elder Milligan's Picture of Sione