Monday, August 26, 2013

Rough week

Thank you for your prayers!  I seriously need them right now!!!!  This week has without a doubt been the hardest week of my life and I'm trying really hard to keep myself together.

We woke up Tuesday morning to some of the streets flooded up to my knees or thighs.  Fortunately we were very safe in our second floor, elevated apartment.  But I know of others who were flooded and even had to evacuate.   :( 

Thursday was, to be quite honest, a really, really terrible day.  I woke up to having stomach issues... hurray... but they weren't as bad as they could have been.  Fortunately our toilet got fixed and I was kind of expecting it after all of the really weird food I've been eating.  I took the medicine Mom gave me and by the next day I was just fine.  But we didn't go out and work very much that day and so I had to spend way too much time alone with my thoughts in my bed as I tried to sleep.  I don't think I've ever prayed so long and so hard for help before.  Emotionally I'm really, really struggling.  I feel like all of the language I learned at the MTC is gone.  So I'm trying to learn a language pretty much all by myself in the little time I have.  

However, I've also had the highest highs this week.  On Saturday we took three of our investigators to the temple for a temple tour.  It was amazing!  It was great to be there with them and to see so many, many other missionaries.  It was especially great because I got to see Elder Phelps, Elder Schenk, Elder Anderson, and Sister Koloi and Sister Alailima there.  We're talking pure joy on all of our faces when we saw each other!!!  I miss them all so much!  We are all feeling lonely and very American.

I have learned that the Philippines IS a third world country and that talking about a third world country and living in a third world country are two very different things.

I’m beginning to understand now how difficult Dad’s first few weeks and months in Chile must have been.  I'm now living it, and, again, it's one thing to talk about it and another thing to experience it.  I really enjoyed reading the article he sent me at the MTC.  I pulled it out this week and was greatly comforted by its words about having faith instead of fear.  It's been weird because even though I know I'm not alone and that I have everyone at home cheering me on and my district here experiencing the same thing and most importantly the companionship of the Holy Ghost and our Savior and God, I still feel so incredibly lonely.  I never understood the culture barriers that would come from being the only American in my apartment.  I'm trying to teach myself a new language and a new culture and a new way of living and you know, the other normal missionary stuff, and it's all so overwhelming!  I’m trying to be patient with myself and with learning the language, but it is really difficult when others bust up laughing at you when you are trying so hard to speak a new language.

Thank you Dad for all of the advice and wisdom you have given me.  My testimony is growing in leaps and bounds it feels with every second that I'm here because if I don't turn to the Lord and rely on Him not just partially, but completely, I'm never going to get through this.  I'm being humbled in so many, many ways that I hadn't expected and while it's been insanely difficult I'm grateful for every day and for every difficult thing I'm going through.  You know I've always valued self-reliance and I'm quickly learning that it's more important to give your all to God.  I thought I understood that before I came here, but I'm still learning what it means to trust Him completely and not hold anything back.

I better understand now why  the members of our whole zone at the MTC had similar personality traits.  I definitely takes a certain personality to survive not just the external culture here but the social culture as well.  Still... I can't do any of this on my own, right now I feel like I can't do anything on my own.  I have to have God's help and control just to get out of bed every single morning.

With all that being said, back to the happy stuff.... :)  Sister Sambo, Brother Sambo, and their daughter C.J. were baptized on Saturday and confirmed members of our church yesterday.  It was so, so, so wonderful and they've become very dear friends of mine.  I'm so happy for them and for the joy they are in my life right now.  I also was so grateful to do the temple tour with the Martinez children.  They are so sweet and I'm so excited for them to be baptized.  

Thank you for praying for me!  And thanks to everyone for emailing to me.  I wasn't homesick in the MTC but man... I've sure been struggling here.  I had a nightmare a few nights ago that was particularly scary, about dogs trying to attack our home again... It was terrible when I woke up, not only because of you know, the nightmare, but because it was the first time I've dreamt about our home and it and all of you were so very real in my dream and I was so hungry for all of it... gosh... now I'm crying again...

Since Thursday I've been feeling a lot better though it may be hard to tell and my faith has grown stronger.  :)  Yesterday while the other sisters were sleeping and I was desperately trying to do some language study I noticed how much easier the stuff I was studying came for me than it did at the MTC.  I know I'm being blessed and strengthened with everything here.  I just have to keep reminding myself of my progress.  It's been tough, but my relationship with my Father in Heaven has kept me going :)  

Well, looks like we are leaving.  Until next week.
Love, Sister Dickison

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hello from some internet shop in Quezon City!‏

Hello everyone!  
Wow... this week has been insane, but don't worry, I'll wake up soon and still be in the MTC... at least, that's what I keep telling myself.  :)  Ha... I waiting so long to get out of there and now all I want is to wake up in our residence and have a full day of MTC-life to look forward to.  Instead I wake up to the sound of airplanes, three or four or twenty-two roosters cockle-doodle-dooing, sometimes people cheering at some type of rooster-fighting competition, lots of rain, and the sound of tricycles driving by on the street.  Good thing I really like sound when I sleep, right?  :)
So I'm here, on my mission, and I have absolutely no clue what anyone is saying except for when they ask my companion, Sister Quinco, if I speak any Tagalog, to which I respond that I speak a little, and then prove them wrong by remaining silent for basically the rest of the conversation.  It's great.  :)  
Everything I've eaten here tastes great, no lie!  All the meat does indeed taste like chicken and for a recovering vegetarian I'm doing pretty darn well.  It's smelly, and dirty, and rainy, and everybody drives like they're drunk, but somehow it's beautiful here.  The people here have nothing, but they are very nice and still happy.  I'm still trying to get used to the staring.  Everywhere I go you can hear "Amerikano" or "foreigner" or my personal favorite from a boy who I swear had to be ten years old "Hey Doll," except it was sa Tagalog.  So strange.  
I'm experiencing severe culture shock.  The worst was on my second day when we went to the grocery store.  I had no clue what anything was or how the money worked and desperately tried to find brands I recognized such as "Dole" and "Tresemme".  It was a disaster!  Seriously.... I think the only thing that kept me here those first two days was getting to ride tricycles. :) (tricycles in the Pines are motorcycles with a modified side cart)
With all that being said, the real reason I'm still here is because I know I'm supposed to be here.  That was the reason I left on my mission in the first place and I'm still hanging on to that confirmation that I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  Our Heavenly Father loves the people here.  I can feel it so strongly.  Since I can't understand anything anyone is saying for the most part, I've really been trying to focus on what I can feel as we teach our investigators and less-active members.  I can feel the love God has for His children we teach.  It's overwhelming sometimes, such as when we teach Brother and Sister Sambo, who, along with their eight-year-old daughter C.J., will be baptized this Saturday.  :)  God loves them so, so much.  It kind of leaves me with no choice but to love them too. 
I really enjoyed getting to attend church yesterday.  The members in the ward were so friendly and kind.  Our whole sacrament meeting was focused on missionary work.  We're really trying to emphasize the importance of the role of members in finding people for us to teach.  I didn't know this before, but in PMG in talks about how members are supposed to find and missionaries are supposed to teach.  It makes sense now that I think about it, because that way the investigators already have a built-in support system.  
Saying good-bye to my MTC district was super tough.  Luckily, Sister Umstead is in my district and Elder Anderson is in my zone so I will see both of them tomorrow at our district meeting, where, for some reason, we meet as a zone.  :)  I've been worried about them all week ( yeah, sometimes you just can't let go of things like being the older sister to your siblings:)) but that's okay, because worrying about how they're doing has helped me to not focus so much on worrying about myself.  Elder Martin was assigned to the Mindoro area, which here is known as "The Promised Land" or "The Rock."  Apparently we're all supposed to be jealous, but before he left he told me that he could only take like 50 lbs. of luggage on the plane and so I wasn't really that jealous.  :)  I am currently serving in the Pasig Zone which is, from what I've heard, the least desired area in our mission.  At least I have everywhere else to look forward to serving in, right? 
We do have an actual shower that works.  The water is cold so thank goodness for the experiences I had taking cold showers after swim team practice.  Sorry Frank... You'll have to wait to write me odes about "Norman." ;)  Our toilet on the other hand is currently broken... Hurray.
Sorry... nobody here understands my sarcasm so I may be going overboard in this email...
My kasama, Sister Quinco, and I get along really well.  She's very patient with me.  She's a Filipina.  Cebuano is her native language followed by English and then Tagalog, so thankfully we can communicate with each other.  She's been letting me teach bits and pieces of our lessons which I appreciate, otherwise I'm never going to learn this language.  Most of what I say is in English, pero I speak as much Tagalog as I know.  Making sure that we teach people and not just lessons is very important to both Sister Quinco and I, so even though they can't always understand everything  I say, sa English, we both feel like it's important that I follow the Spirit and teach them what I feel they need, even if it is in a different language.  She translates when needed.  :)  
I so, so, so miss my previous kasama, yes Sister Alailima, that is you....  I know, I know; "alam ko, alam ko."  :)  I miss Sister Alailima's strength, sense of humor, and friendship.  I was so blessed to be such great friends with her pero I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing her again... hopefully some day... soonish. ;)
I've been missing the stupidist things from the MTC... I knew I was in trouble yesterday when we sang "Scatter Sunshine" in one of our church meetings and I almost lost it and started bawling.  I hate that song.  Our whole MTC district knew it and so they, particularly my wonderful, beautiful kasama, would sing it often, sa Tagalog.  So of course there we were in the church building yesterday, singing that song and all I could think of were my district brothers and sisters and man... now I'm going to start crying just thinking about it!  
Just kidding... I don't cry.  But really, I haven't cried yet... which is apparently abnormal.  So what's new.  
On Thursday, we went to the chapel with Brother and Sister Sambo so they could have their baptismal interviews with the district leader.  The district leader is training an elder from my "MTC-batch", Elder Despain, who was not in my district or zone but did come to the same mission at the same time.  Poor Elder... I though I was experiencing culture shock... this Elder was completely drained.  He fell asleep through all of Sister Sambo's interview and for the rest of the night just looked like a zombie.  Not going to lie... seeing him made me feel a whole lot better about how I was doing.  
Sorry... I always feel like my emails should be more spiritual than they are... Just know that my testimony is continuing to grow and that I have strong testimony of the things I am teaching, right now particularly in having faith in Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I love you all so much!  Thank you for your prayers on my behalf and for all the missionaries in general.  We need it! :)  
Until next week!
Love, Sister Dickison

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Last P-Day at the MTC!

Ah!!!!!!  Kumusta everyone!!!
Guess what.... I'm going to the PHILIPPINES IN THREE DAYS!!!!!  I'm just a little bit excited, as you can tell.  
Thanks for the letters and packages this last week.  Thank you especially for the packages from the Abshers, Dangerfields, and of course my pamilya.  :)  I loved the drawings and crafts from Zach and Michael!  And Michelle, Sister Koloi is obsessed with the cookies you sent.  :)  I also really, really enjoyed the goodies you sent.  :)   Thank you Laura for the ridiculously cute cards, candy, and sweet note!  Kyrie probably told you this, but I was able to see her two days ago several times in a row and got lots of hugs in.  :)  It was great, because she's practically my sister, right, so it was great to get to see and hug a family member before I leave on Monday.  :)
Both of our investigators commited to baptism this week (Hurray!!!)!  It was really cool, because our teacher Bro. Langer was actually playing himself as an investigator.  He was baptized when he was 18 and then left for a mission a year later to the Philippines.  It was neat, because teaching him as he played himself as he was a few years ago is just about as close to real as it could get here in the MTC. 
I saw little Brock Englestead show up as I hosted on Wednesday.  So crazy!  He's the same age as most of the elders in my district... ah!!  I also saw Elder Hadlock RIGHT after he said good-bye to his family and I was then able to visit with him the next day in the caf. 
We had In-Field orientation yesterday and it got me so excited to head out to the Philippines on Monday!!  Crazy to think next time I email you all it will be on the other side of the world. 
Man... I have tons more to say, but I'm running out of time... as usual.
Love you all!!
Sister Dickison

Saturday, August 3, 2013

One Week Left!

Kumusta everyone!  Wow!  Every week here at the MTC has topped the last one (thank goodness).  Thank you so much for the letters and packages!  This week I received a letter from Mr. Josh Palmer, the Whitelaws, and a package from some of my favorite ladies from work. :)  Thank you so much!  So yesterday we got our flight plans (Ah!).  We will be leaving here at 4:00 on Monday, August 12th, and we will be stopping at the SLC airport, the Los Angeles airport, the Hong Kong airport (hehe!), and then land in the Manila airport.  My whole district gets to fly together which is great, because I don't want to start having to say good-bye and crying any earlier than is absolutely necessary. 
I can't believe how fast this last month has flown by!  I feel like I've lived here for the last four years, but at the same time I just got here.  On Wednesday our district had the opportunity to host the "newbies".  It was so much fun to do something a little different for a change!  It was also fun to watch everyone say good-bye to their families.  I honestly don't remember much of what happened when I was dropped off at the curb because I was so concerened about being late - yeah, totally shouldn't have been.  The first girl I hosted lives just down the hall from me and is part of our zone.  The second girl arrived here with her twin brother.  They and their family members were all extremely emotional and it was bittersweet to watch as their parents said good-bye to two instead of just one of their kids.  Both of these Sisters commented on how surprised they were that everyone was so friendly and that I seemed to know half the people here.  It was funny, because I remember feeling that way when I first got here too.  Doing nothing else but the Lord's work makes you super happy I guess. Why wouldn't it? :)  And I've learned that since you spend so much time with the members of your district and zone, you really do get to know a lot of people really well really quickly. 
The language is still coming along.  I'm not feeling too stressed about not being able to speak it because everyone I know says you get out into the field and you don't know anything anyone is saying, but that eventually it comes.  Sounds like fun.  :) 
So something silly that made my week... All of our elders have been finding green army men all over their residences and other places and this last week they put them all up in our classroom.  It was so cool looking!  Especially when Sister Umstead made a parachute out of tissues for one of them and it really worked.  :)  Unfortunately, we took them down after being told it didn't really look "professional" however I was able to enjoy listening to the elders providing commentaries for the army men hiding in their various positions.  :)
Well, I'm almost out of time... I love you all!  Thanks again for your support!
Until next week!
Sister Dickison