Monday, May 30, 2016

"A is for Allen"

Hello everybody! 

This week was a good week.  We are working hard! On Tuesday, we had our District Meeting.  Elder Haacke taught us a lesson that was really interesting.  Usually in District Meetings, we work on teaching skills and such, but his lesson was a doctrinal lesson.  We learned all about the Apostasy.  It was so interesting!  We learned the when, why, and who of the Apostasy and the creation of other churches.  Things like that.  It was based off a talk called “Why 1820.”  I learned a lot about the Apostasy and I really felt that God’s timing is perfect.  The Restoration of the gospel really wouldn’t have worked any earlier or any later.  It really was perfect timing.  It was so cool to see all of the details of the Apostasy that led up to the Restoration.  In our lives as well, I know that God has timed everything perfectly.  Sometimes - most of the times I think - God's timing and our timing is different.  Here on my mission, I have really learned to trust in His timing.  I know that His plan is perfect, and as long as we stick to it, we'll be happy.  It will all work out if we follow His timing. 

I learned about God's timing as well this week with Nanay Carmelita.  We were kind of at a loss with what to do with Nanay Carmelita and Tatay Herminihildo at the start of this week.  Tatay is still smoking and drinking and isn't ready quite yet for his baptism.  Nanay, on the other hand, is SO ready for baptism.  Nanay is so loving and loyal and didn't want to get baptized without Tatay.  We, of course, understood and respected her decision and reminded her to pray about her decision.  Although we understood her situation, it was hard not to be a little disappointed.

On Saturday, I was having kind of a stressful, hard day.  As we walked to Nanay Carmelita's house, I wasn't really expecting anything to have changed with her decision, but we went in with hope and faith and just taught her.  We taught her all about temples.  We talked about what temples are, how our families can be together forever, and how her and Tatay - someday - can be sealed for time and all eternity.  It was a beautiful lesson and Nanay wept as she learned of the blessing of the temple.  Towards the end of the lesson she surprised us by saying, "Sisters, I don't want to wait to get baptized.  I am ready now."  As she said those words, the Spirit filled my heart and I felt such peace.  All the discouragement and doubt I had been feeling melted away.  I was so discouraged last week about Nanay Carmelita and all of the push backs she's been having, but that lesson on Saturday made me realize that this was God's timing and that now, this is Nanay's time.  I am so excited to tell you that Nanay Carmelita will be baptized on this Saturday, June 4th, 2016.  Two of our other investigators, Kylene and Angelica, will also be baptized on the same day.  It makes me cry as I write this, because it fills my soul with so much joy. 

Thank you for all your prayers and for all of your love.  Even though you're far away, I couldn't do this work without you.  I love you all so much!  I miss you everyday!  I hope you all have a wonderful week full of love, laughter, and sunshine. 


xo Sister Allen

Working hard in the heat = ugly tan lines. hahaha!

The little boys from last week playing in the rain.

Sister Escalante, Bro. Roland, and I riding on a kluging standing up!  
It was full of chairs, and there was only room enough to stand.  Whoohoo!

This is how the farmers prepare their rice fields for planting.  
They plow it all out, fill it with water, and then plant the rice. 

The palengke! It's like a big market.  This picture is just part of it.  They sell practically everything!  It smells really bad, and it's really hot inside, but I love looking at all the things people are selling.

Working with the branch missionaries.

Another happy Sunday here in Burogs with my anak, Sister Escalante.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Magandang hapon po! 

This week has been a great week.  It's also been a hard week.  But, sometimes the really hard weeks are the best weeks, because those are the weeks when I learn and grow the most.  I didn't realize how hard training would be!  The trainer has to lead everything - lessons, tracting, contacting, planning - and the trainee kind of just follows along like a puppy.  In a usual companionship, the load of the work should be shared 50/50.  But in training, the weight is mostly, if not all, on the trainer.  100 for me!  That's a heavy load for me, but it is helping me grow and learn a lot.  I am giving my best and showing my best example to my anak, even though it drains me.  But that's how it should be:  I should always be giving everything I have, every day.  If I'm not doing that, I'm not working hard enough.  I'm not doing my job if, at the end of the day, I'm not out of my mind tired.  Training has really helped me grow in patience.  I am praying every day for the strength and kindness to be able to serve well as a trainer, and for my anak to learn everything she needs to during this time as we are training together.  Training is hard, but it's also so wonderful.  I am excited to keep training and learning more and more from this calling. 

We have had some major push backs in our work with Carmelita and Herminihildo.  Nanay Carmelita and Tatay Herminihildo's baptismal date has been pushed back to the middle of June.  Tatay Herminihildo hasn't been able to shake his addiction to cigarettes just yet - and living the Word of Wisdom is a requirement for baptism.  Nanay Carmelita is so ready for baptism, but doesn't want to get baptized without Tatay.  Also, she wasn't able to come to church because she was really sick.  (She got an infection in her gums and her face swelled up all huge. Ah!)  It seems like every time a baptism is close, or an investigator is making real progress, something comes up and disrupts their conversion process.  I like to call these "push backs."  They get sick.  They move.  They lose their job.  They can't stop smoking.  They go back to their old religion.  Push backs have happened a lot to me on my mission.   I feel like my investigators and I are tripping a foot before the finish line.  We are so close to baptism, and then we trip.  Push backs are extremely discouraging, but I've learned to handle it and to always keep an eternal perspective on the situation.  I've also learned that everything happens for a reason.  For every push back that I have seen, I have seen two pushes forward.  The positive definitely weighs out the negative.  We are still working with and praying for Carmelita and Herminihildo.  I know that they will be baptized, and that it will be in the Lord's time, not ours.  Push backs are an important part of life.  They teach you how to stay positive and they teach you how to be strong.  I am honestly grateful for all the push backs that I have seen in my life and in my mission, because they have helped me learn and grow so much. 

It is now officially rainy season here in Burgos.  It usually rains every evening and night, which I love!  I sleep wonderfully because the temperature cools down quite a bit once the rain starts.  The temperature during the day is still hot and humid of course.  On Saturday afternoon, we were teaching one of our investigators and it started to pour rain....and I mean, POURING RAIN.  I didn't know so much water could fall so fast!  The streets instantly started to flood.  It was hard to speak and hear because the rain was so loud on the metal roof.  We finished the lesson, and decided to wait for the storm to calm down a little bit before going out.  We sat outside on the porch, under the metal covering and watched the storm.  The thunder and lightning were deafening and the rain was coming down hard.  In my head I was thinking, "Oh no!  How are we going to have lessons? How are we going to walk from house to house through the flood and the mud?"  As I was thinking and worrying, a herd of little boys came running by.  They stripped off their clothes, and ran out into the rain, screaming and laughing.  They started swimming - literally swimming - in the streets and playing games in the water.  They got buckets and showered themselves with the rain.  It was so funny and so fun to watch.  Their happiness was contagious!  Even though there was a big storm, those little kids made the best out of a bad situation.  After seeing them, happy and having fun despite the storm, it made me wonder, do I make the best of bad situations when they come?  Do I remember to smile and laugh, even when life is stormy?  I hope that we all do that.  Remembering to make the best out of our situations - especially bad situations - will turn us into happy people.  And if we are happy people, our lives will become happy lives.  I will never forget those  little boys, swimming and smiling in the storm.  I hope I - and each of us - can be like them and always remember to be happy and joyful, despite the storms of life.  After they got their clothes back on, I managed to get a picture of them playing in the flood.  I couldn't get them to sit still long enough for a good picture, but the picture's still cute. 

Something gross that happened:  Something - most likely a mouse - died inside the ceiling vent/fan thing in our bathroom.  It smells really really bad, and while I was happily taking a bucket shower one day, maggots started falling from the ceiling.  I screamed and quickly grabbed my towel and ran out of the bathroom as fast as I could.  It was so gross!  It makes me want to barf every time I shower or use the toilet.  We don't know what to do about it.  

I love this work so much and I am so happy to be a missionary.  This work is hard, but it's also the best thing that I have ever done.  Thank you for always supporting me and lifting me up with your words and your prayers.  I love you all so much and I am praying for you, always. 


xo Sister Allen

-The computer is being weird with the pictures and won't send them.  Next week.  sorry sorry sorry!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hello po!  

This week was a wonderful week.  It's been a week of growth and a week of learning.  

This past Wednesday was transfer day, and all the missionaries got shuffled around.  I am still in my same area, Burgos, but I received a brand new companion, fresh out of the MTC!  My companion is brand new here in the field; she's been here for five days!  Her name is Sister Escalante.  I have been called as her trainer here in the Philippines Cauayan mission.  Trainers show the ropes to the brand new missionaries and help them become amazing missionaries. Becoming a trainer has really brought out the best parts of me.  Even though I've only been a trainer for a few days, I have already learned a lot and I am experiencing changes in myself.  I am more exactly obedient, more diligent, and more in tune with the Spirit, because I want to be a good example for my companion.  So far, training has been good.  It's amazing to think that I was in my companion's shoes just a few months ago.  I didn't realize how much I had learned here until I started to teach it all to someone else.  I am excited to continue training and continue to grow through this responsibility. We do training every day for an hour - kind of like a lesson - along with our other studies.  The real training comes from the example of the trainer and from just getting out and working every day.  It has been great so far being her trainer.  I feel like I am learning just as much as she is, if not more.  I am working harder and better, because I want my companion to learn to do that.  It's been wonderful so far!  

Let me tell you about my companion:  Her name is Sister Escalante.  She is from Western Samar, under Philippines Tacloban mission.  Her language is Warri-warri, but she knows Tagalog very well.  She is a survivor of Hurricane Yolanda, the hurricane that hit the Philippines a few years ago and killed thousands.  She was baptized four years ago, and is now here with me, serving in the Great PCM!  She is 19 years old.  She is the second of four children.  Her and her oldest sister are the only members of the church in their family. Her sister and her left on their missions at the same time, one here to Cauayan mission, and the other to Davao mission.  She is very kind and very humble and is going to be one of the best missionaries here once she gets things figured out.  

In three days....I will be HALFWAY through my mission!  I can't believe it.  Time really is flying fast!  I feel like I just stepped off the plane.  These nine months have been amazing and I have learned so much, about the gospel, about the world, and about myself.  Missions really are amazing!  

Our area is doing well.  Our work was kind of slow this week, but we are still seeing great progress with those that we teach.  We had two less active members return this week, which was great!  We are also very close to the baptisms of two of our investigators, Carmelita and Herminihildo.  We are so blessed to have watched them experience such big changes in their lives, and now be working towards the change that comes from baptism.   We are so excited for them.

I really love this area.  As we were visiting one of our brand new investigators, Sister Kayleen, for the second time, she said to us, "Sister, I am coming to church today!  My friend told me that after I go to church I can get baptized.  I hope I can get baptized this month, because I really want to."  We were almost speechless!  She is so prepared for the gospel.  We told her that, yes, she can absolutely get baptized!  We set a baptismal date for her for the beginning of June.  I am always so happily surprised when we find people who are prepared for the gospel.  There are so many people here who are prepared by the Lord.  It's so reassuring and exciting when you find someone like that to teach.  Every thing just clicks.  I am excited to keep teaching and finding in this area.

This week, I have been studying and thinking a lot about prayer.  Our zone leaders this week taught a lesson during a meeting about prayer.  They told us that we should do more than just "say" our prayers, they should be meaningful.  We should think of our prayers as a two-way communication with our Heavenly Father.  I have had so many amazing experiences with prayer in my life, too many to tell.  We are so blessed to be able to talk personally, whenever we want, about whatever we want, with our Heavenly Father.  Teaching someone to pray is one of my favorite things to teach here in the mission.  It's amazing to watch and hear someone pray for the first time.  It's so sincere and so simple.  Sometimes, especially here in the mission, I think, "I wish I had someone to talk to, " or "I wish I could talk to my mom."  When that happens, I just pray.  I talk to my Heavenly Father.  I know that He hears our prayers, and that He cares about everything we pray about, however trivial or seemingly small.  I hope you all do more than just "say" your prayers.  I hope you each talk to your Heavenly Father every day.  I know He wants to hear from each of us and that He will always answer our prayers. 

I hope you all have a wonderful, beautiful week! I love you and miss you all so much! 


xo Sister Allen

My companion is the one of the far right.  Her name is Sister Escalante! She's cute.
(No, that's not a fanny pack, it's my new bag.  My "ugly missionary bag."  It's a shoulder bag with a strap around the waist. Eh. I like it.  Hehehehe.)

There were a lot of weddings in April, this is one of them.

May 8, 2016
Happy Mother's Day!!

I was so happy to skype you all today!  It was so fun to talk to you and to see your beautiful faces. I love you all so much!  Yay for technology!  I can't believe I'm almost halfway too.... has it gone by as fast for you as it has for me?  I can't believe how fast time has flown.  

Have a wonderful week!  You are in my heart and in my prayers, always.

I love you to the moon and the stars and back again.  

xo Sister Allen

Mother's Day picture with all the mama's in our branch.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Me, Sister Aguanta, and our cute branch missionary Sister Lyka.

Hello po! 

Do you know what day it is?  It's......A GREAT DAY TO BE A MISSIONARY!  I am so happy here in Burgos.  We had a great week!  We hit a lot of goals we had made at the beginning of the week, which felt wonderful.  I feel successful!  I have learned here that success is not in the baptisms or in the number of people you teach - it's in the effort and the pure love that you put into your work.  This week was just a normal wonderful working week of effort and love.  We worked hard this week.  I have been enjoying teaching more, and I have been focusing more on following the Spirit than anything else.  It's hard, but it brings so much success.  Our companionship is doing well.  Sister Aguanta is a great missionary!  She is very close to the people in this area, and I can tell that she loves them.  

I am so excited to tell you about two of our investigators, Carmelita and Herminihildo.  They are a couple, around seventy years old, and we have been teaching them for a while.  This week we taught a lesson to Carmelita about baptism.  We had invited her before to be baptized, but she had never really accepted with her whole heart.  This week, we were able to set a date with both of them!  They told us they want to be baptized and that they are ready.  I was so happy.  I couldn't stop smiling.  They are working towards being prepared for their baptism on May 28th.  It's so amazing to watch people's hearts change. We have really seen great progress with them and a few members in the branch have taken them under their wing, which was so wonderful. 

Many other members in our branch, I've noticed, are struggling.  There's a lot of things that I feel are missing from the branch that could help the members become stronger.  Weekly mutual, visiting teaching, and home teaching are just a few.  We have started visiting the members and teaching them to try and strengthen them and we pray for the branch daily.  I'm not sure what else we can do to help the branch to become stronger.  This past Sunday, many people attended and stayed for the whole three hour block, which was wonderful.  Hopefully our efforts in the branch will help them to become stronger members.  Overall, our area is doing well.

Every one is a perfect canidate for the gospel.  No matter what your age, circumstance, country, nationality, or language, the gospel fits.  It works.  But I can tell you, like what was said at general conference last fall, that "it is never too early and it is never too late" to have the gospel in your life.

I love you all so much!  Can't wait to skype you! 

xo Sister Allen

FYI: No, I don't use chopsticks.  Here in the PH, people eat with a spoon, no matter what the meal, and use a fork to push their food onto their spoon.  I do that too when I eat here.  Or a lot of the time, people just eat with their hands.  I don't like doing that.  Do you know how hard it is to eat rice with your hands? Haha it's not a pretty sight.