This week has been an amazing week. Everyone here is pretty busy with Christmas coming up and things are getting pretty crazy in Laoag haha. They like to celebrate Christmas here in a very loud manner. There's parades all night and day, then home made fireworks all day and night. They just really love Christmas here, even though it doesn't really feel like it (to me at least) haha. It gets so rowdy on Christmas Eve that we need to be in our apartments at 5 o'clock and stay there for the rest of the night because they just flood the streets with parades and fireworks. Right now, all the little kids are out caroling which is pretty awesome except here in the Philippines, when people carol they carol for money so it gets pretty annoying at times haha. But we end up giving them candy or a pamphlet which still makes them happy :)
The language is getting SOOO much better. We went on splits on Saturday with a member and the ENTIRE 4 hours I was with him I was able to converse and lead all the lessons in Tagalog. After that I kind of thought to myself, "Did I just really do that??" There's no way I could have been able to do that after only learning the language for 3 months without A LOT of praying and A LOT of patience, and A LOT of studying. Heavenly Father DOES answer your prayers!!! This entire mission has been evidence that he hears our prayers and WANTS to answer them!
We had a mission wide Christmas Conference this week and we were able to see our friends in the MTC which was awesome. But the big news was that our mission's "Standard of Excellence" went up A LOT. This past year our goal was to baptize 1,000 people in our mission, which we accomplished. This year our goal is to now baptize and confirm 2 people per companionship, per week. With a goal of 50 lessons per week from each companionship. So needless to say we will be VERY VERY busy this upcoming year. The thing that helps me realize is that the goals that we receive are inspired by the Lord through the mission president and area authority. When the mission received the goal of 1,000 people they thought it was impossible too, but they accomplished it. Right now we have the tools to reach those goals but we're just prayerfully asking for guidance as to HOW to use the tools that we have so we can be able to accomplish it. So a lot of this week has been coordinating with the ward mission leader, the bishop and stake president with ideas to have the goal be accomplished.
The best part of Christmas Conference was that we had an "Amazing Race" styled competition between all the zones in our mission. It actually felt exactly like the amazing race too haha. We ran ALL over Laoag and we were able to see things in Laoag that was amazing. The Philippines and Ilocos Norte is pretty amazing!! :)
Laoag 3rd ward is the greatest! Seriously! We're trying our best to have members help us out in missionary work and they have really been helping out a lot. We're spoiled being missionaries in the Philippines and especially in Laoag! They're the greatest people and I'm so grateful to serve them! We have basketball tournaments every Monday morning now between members and the Elders in our ward and Laoag 2nd ward. I feel bad because they LOVE basketball here and it's hands down the most popular sport and they're really good at it too, but they're just so short that we're able to get all of the rebounds and get really easy points on them. Our team has three 6'3" Elders, one 6'0" and one 6'5". Their tallest player is 5'8" haha. So it's kind of funny at times.
After the healing with Sister Rhea's little girl they've really started to grow in the gospel. They now see the importance of having a worthy Melchezidek Priesthood holder in their house and Raymond is now trying is hardest to receive the blessings of the priesthood again. Miracles are happening!! :)
I was able to baptize an 8 year old little girl named Faith this past week. It was awesome! She's the coolest little kid and her mom is so sweet and nice to us missionaries. Her Dad is working abroad right now and hasn't been back in a while. It was so awesome to be able to be apart of such an amazing ordinance :)
I have so many funny stories to share to my family this week when I get to call home. I'm seriously way too excited to share them! It seems like everyday is a new adventure here in the Philippines haha.
But before I end this weeks email I just want to wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS again!!! My favorite quote to hear right now is from President Monson he says "To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the spirit of Christ." It's not the easiest thing being away from family on Christmas. It is very very difficult to do this work. But the thing that continues to influence me to KEEP going and keep pushing and keep trying harder is the love I have for our Savior. He loved us so much that he came, lived and died for us to be happy. He called me to labor in the Philippines for two years to be able to spread the message of His life and His Atonement so that OTHER families and OTHER sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven can be happy. I am so grateful for our Savior. I KNOW THAT HE LIVES. I see the miracles he extends to His Sons and Daughters EVERY SINGLE DAY. My invitation to you all is to remember Him and what He has done for you this season. I am eternally grateful for Him and for His life. I am so grateful to be able to keep working here for this next two years because of the love He has given me in my own life.
I love you all and hope everyone has a very MALIGAYANG PASKO :)))