How are y'all doin? I hope everything's been good back at home, or on the mission field, or wherever you're reading this little message of love!
For those of you that don't know, I took two years of sign language when I was at BYU, and this week, I became friends with a deaf girl named Mary, and we got to sign together! It was the craziest thing, because Filipino sign language varies a bit from American sign language...but we were still able to communicate, and it was awesome because I never thought I'd actually get to use sign out here!
My old companion, Sister Livermore, got transferred and I got a new companion, Sister Bricenio. The last day Sister Livermore and I were together, we got to teach our last lesson in English to a man from Australia. I thought, because it was in English, it'd be one of the easiest lessons I'd ever teach here in the PI...but I was completely wrong. This man really shut us off - refusing to answer any questions or even pray to know for himself if our message was true. The thing is, as missionaries, our purpose isn't to force people to believe what we believe. It's only to offer them the opportunity to hear our message and invite them to grow closer to God. I wanted to cry because while we taught the lesson, I could feel the spirit testifying to me of the truth of Christ's gospel so strongly...but his heart was so hard to it. I guess it hurts because as I serve these people daily, I've learned to love them and give them my whole heart, and wish only the best for them...and when they reject it...agh it just brings me to tears. I realized that the only thing I could do was respect the differences, because everyone has a right to believe what they choose to believe. We can only bring the Spirit UNTO their hearts. It's their choice to invite the Spirit of God INTO their hearts.
But when they do invite the Spirit of God into their hearts and lives, it is such a beautiful thing. We've been teaching a girl named Cristine Roco (She's 13) and her family. She's already read the whole book of mormon as just an investigator! I've never seen anyone seek for truth from God with such genuine intent. I've been teaching this family since I first arrived here, and have grown to love them in the deepest way. This week, my companion and I (and a couple of the members of our ward) decided we'd go by to visit them to check up on them and share a gospel message. We ended up taking the longest detour ever and got slightly because we decided to walk, when we easily could've taken a tricycle over and gotten there in 10 minutes flat. When we finally got to our destination, the roads were shut down and fire trucks were everywhere.
Cristine Roco's house burned down. I tried calling, and there was no answer. The next day, we came back in search of them, and found them and a few other families( whose houses were demolished by the fire) sleeping on a basketball court. When I saw Rose Roco (Cristine's mom) she looked at me with tears and told me that they'd lost everything. I wanted to cry out of relief because they were all okay, but also sadness because of the state they were in. Cristine told me she was so upset that her bible and book of mormon were burned - she tried running back inside for them but the firefighters wouldn't let her back in! She has such a strong love for God's word! My companion and I immediately went back to the house, and I collected bags of things I could to give to them. We texted members and our mission leaders in search of donations and any help they'd be willing to offer, and by the next day, people were already ready to contribute to the cause. The Roco family, and the others that were there, were so grateful for the help. Their family has grown closer, and they have so much more time to laugh and talk together. They were keeping such a positive attitude...it really was a testimony to me that trials are only trials if you let them be.
I know that this life is just a test of our faith. I know that it's a time to grow and learn. I know that without bitter pain, we would never experience the sweetness of joy. Trials are made for us. It's not punishment for what we've done wrong, but rather an opportunity to see if we'll do what's right. Pains, trials, and heartache may not go away immediately, but I know that if we rely on God, we can grow strong enough until our burdens seem light. He has not forgotten you, and will never forget you. He hears your prayers. He knows you and what you can get through - and I know He knows you well enough to push you towards your fullest potential... so stop trying to fight the growing pains. just GROW.
I love you all, and I pray that you look at your life in the most positive light. See the blessings you have, and every trial you have should be counted in the blessing pile...because that's really what they are. Trials = blessings in disguise.
Here are a couple of photos of me with some of the kids a couple days after the evacuation, the results of the fire, some of the cool ward missionaires/members/kids in my ward, my old companion (Sister Livermore) annnnnd whatever else I decided to include haha.
You're in my prayers always.
- Sister Calica