Though the power is up and running on our street, much of our area is still without electricity, which means we have to come home early each night. It's against the rules to proselyte at night if there is no electricity - safety precaution. We have been struggling to say the least. Our area is already the smallest in the zone, it's also the poorest. Which means huge chunks of it received the most destruction in the storm, several investigators moved out of our area, and people are still hesitant to talk to us because we're both white Americans. It's really hard. For example, several times a day, some people ask us to not even teach at their homes because their homes "aren't nice enough", or they won't let us help with anything because they don't want us working because I dont think they think anyone really works in America. They're extremely intimidated sometimes, and other times they treat us like celebrities. Not a joke, we have people all the time whom we've never met that come up to us and ask if they can take their picture with us. And what did I do to receive all of this? I'm a white human. Hahaha it's very bizarre, but it's made the work really tough. President is going to consider redrawing the boundary lines and giving us more space to work with.
After the storm, it's been really interesting to watch how different people have reacted and approached the new trials in their lives with the destruction of their homes or property. A lot of people seem depressed - I guess you could say - about their situation, and because of the denotation that comes with America here, they don't really like to see us because they don't think we have any idea what they're going through. Which in reality they're probably right.
However, Sunday was a wonderful, uplifting day. When Sister Mortensen and I first got to the area, the average church attendance was 70 a week. For the last month it's been in the hundreds. And, due to the help of the branch missionaries and our work in working with the many less actives, yesterday we had 141 people at church! 141! That is amazing! We're hoping it sticks and that it's not just because of New Years resolutions and the relief they've received from the church after the storm.
Relief Society though was the best part. We mostly just had a testimony meeting and many of the women spoke. All of the women were talking about the storm and it was like watching Miracle, or any other great sports movie where the coach has some amazing speech that rallies everyone together. They all had such profound things to say and it was very unifying. Hahaha, the meetings here aren't quite as reverent as they are back home, so there was a lot of cheering and hurrahing. It was really cool to witness. Though there are a lot of inactives, the strong converted members here are amazing and they help a lot in supporting the missionary work.
This week, at least at the beginning, the language was just...not there. I can speak a lot in lessons. I can speak less in day to day conversations. And I hardly understand anything. Midway through, I was so frustrated I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was so sick of not being able to communicate, and sick of the frequent (all in good fun) jokes about my lack of understanding, the stares when people dont think I'm looking, and the list goes on an on. Sometimes, one just feels like a circus animal or something, with nothing better to contribute than to just sit there and keep smiling and laughing and changing your facial expressions to match those around you so they think you have a clue. Hahahaha it is sad.
But, everytime I have days like that, there's always better ones that follow. Smiling and trying is all I can really do sometimes and that's what brings progress. Progress in my mood. Progress in the language as well. These last few days have been really good! I'm understanding more and more even if I can just understand the works really and not the sentence. And for heavens sake, if these Philippinos can stay positive after losing so much of what they once had, I can do the same in my own struggles, which are nothing compared.
So keep smiling. Keep trying. And, the 3rd thing that's helped me this week is to continue to have an eternal perspective. Our day to day struggles are so SO small compared to the rest of our life and eternity. Better days always follow. Even if someones life was just one giant trial, it's hardly anything compared with eternity, de ba?
I heard this song this week that I just LOVE!!! It's by Jenny Philipps. I got some music from one of the sisters who went home last transfer and it was on it so I've been driving everyone insane in my apartment probably for playing it so frequently. These lyrics are my favorite part:
Do you remember the promise you made back then,
When you longed for the chance to show faith in Him?
Now that you're here and you're finding your voice,
You're living the plan and you're making the choice
Where you stand. Where you stand.
So, this is a new year! My whole year in the mission! 2016! Don't forget the promise you made. Keep the eternal perspective.
Love you all!
This spider was in the hospital!!! The wall its on is like 6 or 7 feel behind the door. Mom the spider was huge!!!!!!! It could've eaten me! I'm not kidding it was bigger than my hand!