Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am sad that they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, but I will still celebrate it in my heart.  I have been filling up my "I am Thankful for..." poster each day and it makes me happy to think you are doing the same thing at home. 

I can't believe it's already Pday!  This week flew by so so fast.  Being busy with missionary work 24/7 makes time fly.  Pday is one of the most stressful days of the week.  We just run around all day, cleaning the house, washing our clothes, going to the store, and running around everywhere to get everything done, and then before you know it, we're out teaching again.  Emailing is the only time of the day I feel like I can breathe.  I love emailing you guys!  It's one of my favorite things to do, of course.

I admit, this week was tough, but it was a good tough.  And keeping with the Thanksgiving spirit, I worked on counting my blessings, rather than my trails.  I had a nasty cough this week and I've been getting rashes and hives today and yesterday, but even though my body was under the weather, my spirit was not!  I had a good week of setting personal goals, especially goals for my language learning, and in teaching.  I am still continuing to adjust to the ups and downs that missionary work brings, but I feel that I am growing stronger and stronger because of them.  I love it here and I love the people.

I am so sorry that this letter is short.  I am out of time!  Just know that I am happy, that I am doing well, and that I love you all so much.  


xo Sister Anna Ray Allen

New missionaries & Trainers orientation and training (and reunion)

-They brought the newest missionaries and their trainers back into Cauayan at 5 weeks.  They spent the day in more orientation, had a great lunch, took lots of pictures and answered questions. 

"The sun never sets on this work of the Lord as it is 
touching the lives of people across the earth."
President Gordon B. Hinckley 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Yes.....it was my birthday yesterday!  I am 20 years old.  I FEEL OLD.  I'm not a teen anymore!  My 19th year was great; I did and experienced so much!  I am so excited to start my 20th year, which will be spent entirely in the mission field.  I like to think someday I'll say, when people - my future children or whoever - ask me, "what were you like when you were 20?"  And I'll say, "I was a missionary."  

My birthday was a lot better than I thought it would be.  I was sad before my birthday for a while, thinking of celebrating - or not celebrating at all - my birthday without all of you.  But it turned into a happy day!  That morning, my roommates surprised me by decorating my desk with a cute "happy birthday" sign and decorations that they made out of paper.  It was so cute!  Sis Maroket gave me two cute little notebooks and a little note, and my other roommate gave me some chocolate and a little card too.  It made me happy!  They are so cute and fun.  The morning of my birthday, I ate some pianonu - my favorite bread-type pastry thing here - for my birthday breakfast.  It's basically just sugary, doughy bread.  YUM.  And I opened my presents.  After carrying them around for so long, I was so excited to open them.  I LOVED IT ALL!   After, we had church and the RS sang "happy birthday" to me. :)  After, we had our studies, then proselyting/teaching as usual.  That night, we had a dinner appointment at a member's home.  It was a lot of fun!  We had some yummy spicy food called Bikol Express.  It's good!  Then we hung out with the family for a while.  It was nice to be with such a wonderful family, just eating dinner.  It felt normal.  Then Sis Maroket and I shared a lesson with them, and then went home.  I didn't tell them it was my birthday, but Sis Maroket told them at the end.  They were nice and all blabbered in Tagalog so fast I didn't catch all of it.  But they were excited and said "happy birthday."  Today, Sis Maroket and my roommates Sis Canlapan and Sis Mahinay all went to lunch together at the mall for my birthday.  It was fun!  The restaurant gave me a free birthday cake, and I got to blow out a birthday candle, which made me so happy!  We ordered a giant halo-halo to share for our dessert, but I had no idea just how giant it would be.  It was HUGE.  Luckily, they put what we didn't eat in to-go cups and we got to bring the rest home.  The sisters and my comp are so thoughtful and made sure I had a good birthday. Sometimes I feel so alone here - being the only American in my house, with everyone speaking Tagalog all the time, and with the culture so different from what I'm used to.  But knowing that you were home, thinking of me, makes me really happy.  

Like my necklace (that my mom gave me for my birthday) says.....the stars light is the love of our most-loved ones shining down upon us.  I am happy that your love is always shining on me!  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSTANT LOVE.

This week was a good week.  At our district meeting on Tuesday, an American elder in my district came up to me and said, "so how's your blog?"  It was very startling.  Apparently his mom found the blog somehow and told him about it.  So now everyone I talk to asks me, "am I on your blog?"  It's a little embarrassing, but it's okay. I am proud to share what I'm up to with anyone who'll listen, or read.  

This Wednesday, we had our second "newbies" training meeting at the mission home, like the one we had the morning we arrived.  President and Sister Rahlf and the senior couples talked to us about finances, proselyting materials, our schedule, and other business-type stuff.  Pres and Sis Rahlf also taught us a spiritual lesson and told us more about themselves so we could get to know them better.  I really enjoyed their spiritual lesson.  In part of it, we had to go around the room and say one word that described our first six weeks.  Mine was "test."  It's true, this time has been a test!  But getting through the first six weeks has made me strong and I feel ready and willing to keep moving on in the work.  A few other words were:  challenge,  Tagalog, and rice.  We all laughed pretty hard at the last one!  Pres and Sis Rahlf are so wonderful and I loved spending the day in the mission home with them.  

Here's a little bit about them:  They are both originally from Montana, but they raised their family in Cincinnati.  Pres Rahlf served a mission in Germany.  He worked for P&G as an engineer/business/I-don't-really-know-what executive, and has since retired.  They are the parents of five boys, the youngest of which is on a mission in Germany.  He will be released, here to the Philippines to be with his parents, next year.  Pres Rahlf is very kind and has a strong spirit.  I love learning from him, and Sis Rahlf too.  Pres Rahlf is a great mission president and is dedicated to the work and the gospel.  Even though, I didn't get to know my grandpa Roger, I imagine him as a mission president and envision him as something like my mission president.  Just knowing that grandpa Roger was a mission president tells me a lot about him and the type of man he was.  I know he was a great mission president too, just like Pres Rahlf is for me.  Pres Rahlf plays the guitar too, just like grandpa Roger.  I am getting to know grandpa Roger more through my mission president, and it makes me really really happy.  Sis Rahlf is also amazing.  She is becoming a sort of role model of mine, as a woman and as a member of the church.  I hope I can be like her when I am older. Sis Rahlf loves Harry Potter and Jane Austen books - just like me! - and is very musically talented.  She plays a lot of instruments!   She is very very kind.  Before she came here, she and a friend went and did a service/humanitarian trip in a leper colony in India, just because they wanted to.  I can tell she is very smart by the way she talks.  She is intelligent, and is very insightful about the gospel.  They are both so loving and fun, and make us feel right at home.  I love them! 

Our area is doing well.  Our strength this week was giving lessons.  We were able to teach a lot of investigators and new investigators.  We had over 40 lessons total this week.  We have many people ready for us to "harvest," as they say.  We are just putting in the work to reap them and bring them into the gospel.  Our weaknesses this week were member present lessons and getting investigators to sacrament meeting.  We had only one lesson with a member present this week.  People are always busy!  Or so they say... Most of our investigators work at the mall and don't have Sundays off, or live in our further area, Reina Mercedes, and don't have funds to come to church.  Sister Maroket and I pray every day that they will get to come to church.  We have a lot to improve on each week, but we are constantly working to help those around us receive the gospel.

I am so happy to be here as a missionary, sharing the light of Christ.  I hope you all are sharing your light in every way you can.  You are all amazing and I love you so so much. 

xo Sis Allen

Proselyting selfies!

My GIANT birthday halo-halo at my bday lunch.  Hahaha!

My favorite little kids that run around our area.  Who knows
 who, or where, their parents are, they are the cutest!

Birthday lunch with my comp and mga kabahay! (roommates) 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hello.  I am good!  I am happy!  I am hot all the time!  But I love it here!  I really feel myself growing in so many ways emotionally and spiritually.  Rice belly is real, but I am trying not to grow in that way any more.  Ha!

Here, everyone was listening to Christmas music when I got here at the beginning of October!  There's Christmas everywhere and people even say "merry Christmas" already to each other. Even in sacrament meeting they said, "Merry Christmas and welcome to sacrament meeting."  Hahaha.  It's weird, but fun.  It makes me smile!  

People do have a hard time with money here.  Most people we teach don't even have money to travel to the chapel, and many of the old women aren't able to read the Book of Mormon or the pamphlets we give them because they have no money for reading glasses.  It really makes me thankful for everything that we have, and I am so thankful for the life I was given in a nice home, and a family that has all they need. 

The language is good, but hard.  Everyone tells me I am good at speaking, but I still feel insecure about it sometimes.  I can understand almost everything, but speaking is harder.  I am getting better and learning every day.  I just started reading the Book of Mormon in Tagalog.  It's really hard, but I like it and I am learning.  

I think I say this every week but....what a week!  It's true, every week here in the mission field is great.  I am growing and learning more each day.  My testimony of missionary work and of this gospel grows more and more each day.  More than I ever thought it could.  

Yes, we are teaching a lot of people.  We have about 40 lessons a week and contact over 70 people each week.  It's really great! I'll tell you more about each of them next week.  I'm almost out of computer time! 

I was so stressed this week about becoming a better missionary and about meeting and making goals.  So many names, needs, lessons, goals, and plans were running through my mind.  As I sat and pondered about them, I realized that my fears weren't in the right perspective.  I was stressing about our work in a daily and weekly perspective, when really, our work is for eternity.  I realized I needed to have an eternal perspective.  When we put our fears into an eternal perspective, they become nonexistent.  We need not fear, because we are on God's side!  I have a strong testimony of the power of making goals and plans, and I know that if Sis. Maroket and I plan and make goals according to what God sees fit - always keeping in mind that it is HIS plan, not ours - we will be able to succeed.  Like one of my favorite scriptures says: "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not" (D&C 6:36).  If we have any fears, when we put our Savior and the plan of salvation into the picture, our fears disappear.  Really, we have nothing to fear.  I am so thankful to have an eternal family and for the perfect plan that we have.

Our area is getting better each week.  We have been able to coordinate more with the branch and the Branch Mission leader, and we have made some good plans together.  We've planned for a half-day mission, a missionary fireside with us and the ward missionaries, and are making plans to get more members present in our lessons in the coming weeks.  We are still struggling to bring our investigators to sacrament meeting.  Most of them have work on Sunday, or don't have the money to travel to the chapel.  But, things are looking up.  We have one sister, Sister Jen Aguirre, who just got Sundays off from work, so she will be able to come to church.  Sis. Maroket and I were so happy when she told us that she could come, we were practically jumping up and down with excitement.   She is really progressing, and we are excited for her to come to church.  I fasted for our investigators last week that they would be able to come to church, and my prayers and fast was answered!  Sister Jen said she will come to sacrament meeting next week, and that she really wants to come to church and get baptized.  I love her and am so excited for her.  She is 17 years old.

I am so proud to be a missionary.  I am so proud to be a missionary, here, in the Philippines Cauayan Mission.  This is a great place, where great things happen.  I am continuing to adjust every day, and I can feel myself growing and stretching in knowledge and faith.  I know that through Jesus Christ, my Savior, all missionaries can become great, and that through His infinite sacrifice of love, we can do all things.  I know He leads, guides, and walks beside me every second of every day.

I love you all! Always remember how amazing each of you are and how much you are loved.

Moroni 8:3
xo Sister Allen

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

This week was a crazy week.  We did so much!  On Wednesday, Elder Schwitzer (from the 70) and his wife came to do a Mission Tour of the PCM (Philippines Cauayan Mission).  It was so amazing to be able to hear from them and I was so spiritually full afterwards, I didn't know what to do with myself.  I really loved hearing from them.  Before I met them, I was worried that I would be disappointed in meeting them, and that they wouldn't live up to the hype, but the opposite happened:  I was amazed!  Elder and Sister Schwitzer brought such a great spirit of love and I really felt their testimonies and I could see it in their eyes.  They are an amazing pair.  I really enjoyed the entire conference, and I learned so much.  Here are a few things that struck me especially:  

We talked about the parable of the lost coin, and Elder Schwitzer's message from it really touched my heart, and I have reflected on it a lot this week.  He talked about the woman "sweeping the whole house," and how she didn't stop looking, until she found her lost coin.  His son served a mission in New York, and one time he found a woman who lived in an elevator shaft, who was poor and probably looked like a dirty, measly penny to the world.  He taught her, and baptized her, and her life turned completely around.  She may have seemed like nothing, but to Elder Schwitzer's son, she was priceless; and in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, every one - every soul! - is priceless.  I want to find my "lost coins," or brothers and sisters, wherever they may be here in the PCM.  I know that I have been called by a prophet of God to come and find those brothers and sisters - MY brothers and sisters - who are lost in this crazy world.  And I need to find them.  Elder Schwitzer's message, I felt, woke me up, and reminded me of why I was here, and what I need to think of and do each and every day.  I need to search and search!  Nothing, not homesickness, stress, fatigue, or fear, can stifle this work, or me.  To remind me of this message every day, I took a 5 sento-peso piece from my wallet, they're little and brown with a hole in the middle, and I put in on a chain, and I wear it around my neck every day.  It's worth less than a peso, but to me, it's a reminder of how priceless every person is, and to never stop searching for those that are lost.

I also had the opportunity to go on splits with the STL's (who are also our housemates) this Thursday, and I was assigned with Sis Culis.  I was so nervous beforehand, but she really calmed my fears just by her strength and kindness.  She is great!  I learned a lot about teaching and making invitations, and she helped me continue to learn and understand the language. I admire her strength and her capacity to love others.  She is a great missionary.  

We also got a new Branch Mission Leader this week, who is really great.  I am excited to work with him, and strengthen our branch with him.  Hopefully we can get everyone in the ward excited about doing missionary work!  

I love this mission.  I know that angels are by my side each and every day, to bring the joy of the gospel to the Philippines.  I have angels everywhere and I can feel them:  in the kids that run around me and give me high-fives, in the missionaries that I work with; they are all around me.  There's no way I could do any of this without some heavenly help.  I know angels and so many others are here, watching me and lifting me when I can't lift myself.  You are my angels too.  Thank you for being by my side, even though you're not really here, and for praying and fasting for me. 

I love you so much and I am so happy to email you today!  I love being a missionary, and I love helping people here to find the light of Christ.  I LOVE YOU!  MAHAL KITA!  


Sis Anna Ray Allen

Cute little Filipino girls.  This was at our Community Service Project on Friday.  We helped a member clean up all the mess from the storm in his tree/yard/dirt area by his house.

Selfie!  Hahaha I love this picture.  They were all singing and dancing like crazy little girls.  They reminded me of Sage and I being crazy together.  They kept petting my hair and would smile and say in broken English, "what's your name?"  They are so cute!  

This is the daughter of the member who we helped.  Her name is Jelo.  Hahaha, exactly like "Jell-o."  She wouldn't tell me what her name was, but I found out from her sister.  She wouldn't talk to me, but she would run up and grab my hand and walk with me or just run up and stand by me.  She is 2 years old.  

A huge spider we found!  I thought it was carrying a candy at first, like a giant Sweettart or something, but nope.....that's an egg sac!  ICK!  But it was cool.  I wasn't even scared.  Everyone said I was brave for getting close to it hahaha.  As long as it doesn't touch me, I'm good.  It's HUGE.

Me and Sis Maroket before the Zone Conf. with Elder and Sister Schwitzer.  I blow dryed my hair for the first time since being here that day and I thought I was going to die, cause I was so hot.  But my hair was pretty, so that's all that matters.  Beauty is pain! 

What most of the toilets look like.  This is at a member's house named Edita.  You dip the little bucket in the big bucket and the toilet drains down to who-knows-where.  There were sticks and plastic billboard-type fabric stuff about four feet high around it for privacy.  Good thing I'm on the short side!  Haha

This is a dessert called "halo-halo," which in English literally means "mix mix."  Hahaha.  It has snowcone snow stuff in it, jello, weird fruit snack-like squishy things, a chunk of "ube" flavored ice cream stuff, a chunk of cheesecake like stuff, sweet beans, and a bunch of other random stuff that i have no idea.  You mix it all up and then just eat it.  It was actually pretty good!  It was the first time I got cold here, while eating it.  Freezie-brain!  Hahaha