Sunday, September 29, 2013

Welcome to a new transfer!

Hello everyone!!

Sorry about not sending out an email last week... I'll admit I spent all of my allotted email time emailing back and forth with my family again.  :)
So we had our Mission Tour with our Area President, President Ardern, and his wife as well as with our mission president, President Revillo and his wife. While all of their talks were great as well as the food, I kind of left the tour feeling homesick again after seeing most of my MTC district brothers and sisters.  The following days were/week was tough emotionally, and then physically as I came down with a fever, and then mentally and emotionally again as I started panicking about learning to speak Tagalog again....
A few days ago, Sister Quinco and I showed a video in one of our less-active member visits.  In it President Utchdorf talked about being at boot-camp and continually having to run, and run, and run.  He said that it became increasingly frustrating as he watched people who smoked and didn't follow the word of wisdom pass him while running time and time again.  He wondered where God's promised blessings were, because he knew that by following the word of wisdom he should be able to run and not be weary.  He said he learned a valuable lesson from this... be patient and endure to the end.  This video really touched both of the members we were teaching but I think it had the biggest impact on me.  It's been hard, feeling like I'm trying my best to be obedient and to learn the language and not having it come as quick as I want it to.  
Last Wednesday, Sister Suminguit had to say good-bye to her trainer, Sister I'loa, and hello to her trainee, Sister Tereke.  Sister Tereke is from Kirabati and fresh from the Provo MTC.  She know about as much Tagalog as I did when I arrived here six weeks ago and has a difficult time speaking English as well.  This has been a wake-up call for me, not only to realize how blessed I am to be able to communicate through English with so many people here, but also to notice how far I really have come.  While at times it's felt like my speaking skills have remained stagnant since I got here, I can understand what people are saying now and that feels like a huge step in the right direction.  I feel like I spent the first transfer trying to figure out what the heck was going on with everything around me - particularly what people were saying, everything about the culture, where everything is, and what being a missionary is really like.  It's been tough... every time somebody asks me how the language is coming I honestly want to cry, but I feel like now that I've got a better understanding of all the things I listed before, it's time to buckle down and learn how to speak this language!

My companion is helping me with my language study!  Already, just in the last few days she's been helping me, I've been learning so much better than I was before.
Sister Quinco and I have still had a really difficult time finding investigators.  We have a goal to go "finding" every day this week so next week I will let you now how it went and who we "found."  :)  Anyways... so my message from this week is to continue to endure to the end as well as enjoy to the end.  I was reminded by a good friend (*cough* Sister Umstead) of how important it is to enjoy as well as endure.  I admitted to her that I panicked a lot last week (okay, my red face and I'm guessing overall stressed-out look gave me away before I could admit anything), feeling like I needed to play "catch-up" with my language skills.  She gently reminded me that I can't play "catch-up" and that I need to be diligent but not freaking myself out. God sent us to earth for a lot of reasons, a big one being that we might have joy.  So just remember to endure and enjoy.  :)
Love you all!  Have a wonderful week!
Love, Sister Dickison

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mission tour week :)

Hey everyone! 

So next week is transfer week...  It really is crazy how fast time flies by when you're on a mission.  Every day I feel a little bit/a lot more comfortable being here and the language get's a little bit better.  The gift of tongues is super cool!  Somehow I went from not knowing what anyone was saying when I first got here, to being able to follow most conversations especially during our teaching appointments and church.  While I still can't say much off of the top of my head, it's slowly getting easier.  I was promised that the language would come as I continued to open my mouth and speak, so that's what I'm doing... even though I know most (if not all) of what I'm saying doesn't make any sense, I figure it's better to try than to not.  :)

This last week Sister Quinco and Sisters I'loa and Suminguit were all sick for a few days so I was able to do a lot of extra language study while they slept and recovered.  I also was able to go on splits with Sister Wilson, an American sister who lives in the same apartment complex as us.  It was so much fun to work with her!  I've really enjoyed being able to work with three different sisters during this transfer, just to see their different teaching styles.
Unfortunately, because Sister Quinco was sick we didn't get to do very much actual missionary work, again, which was frustrating.  What appointments we did have though went well.  We met a couple named the Garcia's on Saturday.  Sister Garcia is a less-active member and hasn't been to church since I entered the field.  Brother Garcia is Catholic, and super loud and funny.  Their son, who was also a Mormon, passed away last December from cancer and it's been very difficult for them.  So after getting to know them a little bit better, Sister Quinco told me to take the lead in the lesson.  Our teaching over the last little over a month has been an interesting mix of me just starting out only speaking sa Tagalog, and then switching to participating a lot more but almost all sa English because that's what the Sister Training Leader I worked with recommended, and after talking with Sister Wilson the other day, I'm now back to not particating as much but trying to do it all sa Tagalog.  So I found myself there, in charge of the lesson, with no clue of what I should really say (which is how it's been for the past few weeks, however I was speaking mostly english then), and so I just began with lesson 1, the restoration of the gospel, and rehearsed everything I've been learning during my extra language study time.  It went okay, however I couldn't figure out how to really make it applicable to them using my limited Tagalog vocabulary, that's when I finished saying all I could and then Sister Quinco started speaking and was able to connect it to them, and their current challenges and it was really neat to see how touched Brother Garcia was.  He started crying which shocked me, because he seems like a pretty tough man and all, and when we asked if we could visit them again this week, he enthusiastically said yes.  It was an awesome experience, even if it was embarassing because I'm still such an inexperienced teacher.  I'm grateful for the fact that I have such an experienced trainer.  She has taught me a lot about how to teach and she really tries to apply whatever it is we're teaching to our investigators needs.  
The Filipino people crack me up all the time!  You really have to be thick-skinned if you live here because they have no clue what the word "tact" means.  They aren't afraid to tell you that you've gotten prettier/uglier, skinnier/fatter, that you need to trim your eyebrows (true story, although one I was not part of... phew...), and so on and so forth.  I've also been informed by one of the members of our ward that I look like Mona Lisa, but with eyebrows.  I really did not know what to say to that.  :)  Also, all white people look the same to them.  When I worked with Sister Wilson we had two or three different people tell us we looked exactly the same.  Since Sister Wilson is half-Japanese it was pretty ridiculous but funny.  They also say stuff over the pulpit that is hilarious!  Two days ago, at the general adult meeting for stake conference, The Stake President stood up and talked about how if you serve a mission you will be blessed to have a really attractive wife (this is a "fact" that is frequently brought up here) and then proceeded to give us an example by having a sister in the congregation stand up, followed by her beautiful daughter, and then asked if the father who he deemed "ugly" to stand up.  "See?"  he said.  "Even if your as ugly as brother so-and-so, if you serve a mission, you can have a beautiful wife and daughter." And then everyone in the congregation, including Brother So-and-so busted up laughing.  Hahahaha!!!  It was such a strange experience and things like that happen here all of the time!  No wonder people here leave the church so frequently because someone offended them!  I'm still trying to get used to this bluntness... it's pretty funny.  :)
Anyways...  Hope everyone has an awesome week!  We have mission tour on Wednesday where I will probably get to see a lot of my mtc district elders again.  Super stoked! 
Until next week!
Love, Sister Dickison

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Philippines!!!

Hello po and Merry Christmas to everyone!!
Really though, Christmas season is now in full-swing here in the Philippines and will continue to be that way for the next several months.  We have started singing Christmas songs in church, Christmas decorations are going up, (I used to be appalled by Wal-Mart putting decorations up right after Halloween... yeah... Christmas decorations were up at the grocery store when I got here in August:)) and Christmas music is currently playing here at the Internet shop.  So crazy, ya got to love it.  :)

I'm happy to report that I have had a very uneventful week compared to the first few weeks of being here. Monday we had a combined zone activity with the Taguig zone which was super fun!  We hung out at our chapel and played volleyball, basketball, ate food, and played some kind of steal-the-flag game which I'm honestly still trying to figure out how you play it.  It was great to get to know some of the other Elders and Sisters better.  
Sister Quinco and I went on splits with the Sister Training Leaders on Wednesday.  It was a great experience and I learned a lot from the sister I worked with.  Funny story... so here, it's polite to take your shoes off before you enter people's houses, right?  So the STL, Sister Suarez, and I took our shoes off, like normal, and when we opened the door to leave, I found that part of my shoes were missing.  Apparently the member's dogs found my crocs super tasty... :)
Friday we spent most of the day waiting for the Martinez children to have their baptismal interviews.  Elder Balolong, our district leader, really likes to give, uh, thorough interviews but it was okay because it gave us a chance to visit with Elder Anderson from my MTC district who is Elder Balolong's new trainee since his last one went home from homesickness.  
On Saturday I got to enjoy watching Frencess, Frenscharls l, and Frenscharls ll Martinez be baptized. Wow!  It was awesome!  It was especially great because their dad, who is a less-active, came both to their baptisms and to church the next Sunday where they were confirmed. He was really emotional throughout both of these things.  Sister Quinco and I hope that as we continue to teach our newest recent converts, that he will join us more often in our lessons and that his children's decisions will continue to have a good influence on him. 
Saturday evening Sister Quinco and I were extremely fortunate to have dinner with some friends of my aunt and uncle who are living here in Metro Manila.  I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was to eat delicious, very-American food (not rice!) :)  We are so grateful for the Hill's generosity in letting us come over, visit, eat wonderful food, and share a spiritual message with them.  
Sunday during ward council we again really tried to emphasize to our ward the importance of the members in missionary work.  Our ward is really struggling in this area and we're finding it's difficult to serve our callings as missionaries when we have no investigators to teach.  As blessed as we feel to have had six baptisms in the last few weeks, as well as having the other sisters who we live and serve with have three baptisms, we now have a lot of time to be filled with finding new people to teach.  We pray that we will be able to find people and that our ward members, especially the newly called ward missionaries, will aid us in the missionary work. 
This morning we woke up at 4:00 in the morning to attend the temple session.  It was a much needed spiritual experience and I feel so blessed to have the temple in our mission boundaries!  The endowment session was beautiful and I really, really, really enjoyed the new video.  
Thank you for your continued love and support!  Hope you have a wonderful week!
God bless you!
Sister Dickison 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My address:

Sister Jessica Dickison
Philippines Quezon City Mission
Aurora Blvd. corner J.P. Rizal Street
Project 4, Cubao, Quezon City 1109
Metro Manila, Philippines


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Only in the Philippines...:)

Hello po! 

First off, thank you so, so, so much for the fasting and prayers and love and support.  The letters over the past few weeks from Carol, Brother Langer, Mattie, Makayla, Sister Dangerfield, Aunt Michelle, my MTC sisters, and especially of course every single one of my family members have truly been a blessing and gotten me through these challenging times.  If things were difficult last week, they were even more so this week, but I was able to conquer them a lot better and honestly, if it weren't for the fasting and prayers I could very easily be home right now just because of how incredibly tough it's been. 

So, here were go...
On Monday I was feeling a lot better after being able to email with each of my family members as well as Sister Koloi and receiving a letter from Sister Alailima while I was online.  I was able to visit more with the other two sisters in our apartment and we've become really good friends.  That night we went over to a family in our ward and enjoyed a fun FHE with them which included playing "Big Booty."  So funny!

Tuesday I woke up to find that someone had broken into our apartment during the night and had stolen all of my money despite the fact that it had been hidden in three different places as well as my camera.  Thank goodness I emailed most of my pictures home!  I'm not too frustrated about loosing the stuff, it's just stuff and I'm just so grateful we're all alive and okay.  Our Mission President and his wife have been on top of everything and habr been taking care of us, making sure we will be safe.

Over the next few days we didn't get to do a whole lot of teaching or normal missionary work because we were charged with the task of finding a new apartment.  We found one that hopefully will be approved and we will hopefully get to move sometime in the next few weeks or maybe next transfer. 

I've enjoyed getting to know the people here better, especially the members of our ward.  The people here amaze me!  Everyone was always telling me that the Filipino people literally have like nothing, yet they are happy and always smiling.  It's one thing to hear it, and another thing to see it.  Wow.  They are incredible.  So many crazy things happen here, things that would put most Americans in a coma for the rest of their lives from the stress, but the people here just brush it off and continue smiling and joking.  What an example they've been to me, of making the most of what you have and focusing on what matters most! 

The Martinez children will hopefully be baptized this Saturday and I'm so, so happy for them!  Their family needs the gospel so much right now.  Sis. Martinez's mom is currently in the hospital and may not live.  Sis. Martinez obviously wants to visit her but they don't have enough money for her to make the journey.  It's so sad!!  With every person we teach here, they have equally difficult challenges going on in their lives.  I wish I could better communicate to them the sympathy I feel for them and their situations.  Right now although I may not be able to teach them very much about our lessons, I'm just hoping I can show them how much I care.

Well... at times this last week it's felt like, "Ok, two months down and only 16 more to go..." but I've realized that really, that means only 16 more months until I'll have to return to the "real world" and end this incredible journey of developing in ways that I didn't even know existed.  With as crazy as everything has been for me on the external side of things - stuff that's been out of my control such as the floods and the being sick and the break-in and yeah... a lot of other stuff too - I've found that it's been what's been happening inside of my head and my heart that has brought the most growth and been the most challenging.  I want to briefly (or not so briefly) share a few things I've learned during the last three weeks. 

"How to move forward with faith and not fear."  Sounds so simple, but really that concept can feel impossible, right?  There are two talks that I've really enjoyed as I've tried to learn this.  One is the one my Dad sent me, and I think I mentioned in my last letter.  I feel so blessed to have had the wisdom of someone so close to me to rely on, having been through it all before himself.  Thanks Dad.  Anyways... I don't remember the author's name, but it's entitled "A Time for Faith, Not Fear."  Everything in that article has helped me so much and I've caught the other sisters in my apartment picking it up off of my desk and reading it too.  :)

The other article is in the August issue of "The Liahona" by Elder Brent H. Nielson, a member of the area presidency for the Philippines.  It's entitled, "Move Forward with Faith."  I know I read it in the Ensign some time ago a home, and I was surprised to find it again in the Liahona for last month.  Anyways, in this article Elder Nielsen discusses finding ourselves stuck on diff. "roundabouts" in life and having a hard time moving forward in faith.  This concept struck home both the first time I read it and again during this last week.  I feel like it perfectly describes my life in a nutshell, from finding myself stuck on the roundabout of forgetfulness as a teenager and then during the last two years stuck on a combination of the roundabouts of dating, choosing a career, and deciding to serve a mission.  I've always envied how much more clear the path seems to be for guys - mission, marriage, education, and then career.  I've spent the last two years overwhelmed with all four of these huge decisions when I really shouldn't have been.  I knew what I wanted - I wanted to date and get married ASAP, get my degree, and then spend the rest of my life getting to do what I want most - to be a stay-at-home-mom.  I was reading some of the entries from my journal the other night from about a year ago.  Wow.  I was so lost.  I felt so stuck on a roundabout of going to school and dating not going the way I wanted it to and really not doing anything else besides going to class, work, and then watching Netflix.  As most of you know, I finally asked God what His plan for me was, received my answer, I found myself here, in the Philippines, feeling like over the last two months I've finally exited that roundabout and now I'm driving down some crazy road with bumps, twists, and sometimes even u-turns in it at 100 mph.

During this last week as I was having some really pathetic pity-parties for myself, I forced myself to reflect on the last two months.  I realized that while, at times, I've honestly felt like I've been living in heck, I would not change anything.  If I had not made this decision I would still be at home waiting for my life to begin.  This journey has felt very unsafe, not so much because of the flood and break-in, but more because of the changes I'm going through mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually.  My wise sister, Mikaela, advised me to not be afraid of change the evening before I left.  She, knowing me better than anyone else, knew that this would be and I'm sure will continue to be the most difficult challenge for me.

I don't understand this concept of faith perfectly yet.  In fact, I'm pretty sure this is just the beginning of a life-long lesson, but I know that having faith is the ultimate thing to get us through life.  That's why it's the first principle of the gospel.  Without faith, nothing else can work.  Only when we learn to trust that God's plan for us is better than our own are we able to get out of our roundabouts and really progress. 

So while I'm here struggling to learn basic things such as how to love my companion, open my mouth and speak, have faith instead of fear, be patient, be humble, rely on God's strength instead of my own, and that it's okay to not always be a "fast-learner", at least I'm not at home watching three seasons of Glee in less than two weeks (yes, I'm ashamed to say that really did happen.):)

So if any of you are struggling to get out of roundabouts and feeling like all of your plans are falling apart, I would encourage you to turn to our Father in Heaven for answers and the faith and courage to follow His plan for you.  It Will Not Be Easy, but it will be worth it.  And when you feel like you're drowning, pray.  And if you still feel like you're drowning, pray longer and harder.  And keep telling yourself "I can do hard things."  Eventually you will start to believe it.  :)  Also remember what President Hinckley's dad told him, about forgetting yourself and getting to work.  It's a true concept.

Yeah... Phew sorry.... that ended up being really long.  I hope everyone has an awesome week!  Hopefully mine will be less eventful :) 
Til next week!
Love, Sister Dickison