Monday, April 29, 2013

One month in the Philippines already?

I had a good week! On Tuesday we had our quarterly interviews with the mission president.   he is so nice, I love talking with him and sister carlos. Oh and sister carlos brought us homemade cookies, so good! It had been a while haha. On Thursday we had "The Amazing Grace" in Santiago with the southern half of our mission. We had a zone t-shirt competition and we went and did several activities that taught us things about being a preach my gospel missionary. I really liked the activity and was able to learn a lot about the importance of teaching by the spirit. It was fun seeing the American's there, some who have been here a long time said it was really difficult for them to use English while talking with me even. It was also so interesting to see the different attitudes of people who only have a couple months left. For some you can tell that all they think about is going home, and for others they didn't want to even think about leaving already. I want to be in that second group, not because I don't love and miss you all, but just because I want to be in this completely everyday til it's my time to leave. We stayed in Santiago that night with Sister Diola and Sister Perlas, and we even got to work in their area with them that night, they were so much fun! The next morning we all went to Cauayan for a special meeting with Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy and First Counselor in the Area Presidency. He gave us an assignment to read a talk by Elder Bednar about the enabling power of the atonement, i had already read it, but I read it again, cause it really is a good one. The meeting with him and his wife was great. One thing he said that I liked: "You get what you go for." Pretty simple but true! He said the Philippines is full of cars, (and he's right the streets are crazy here, with practically no rules.) And the church has built all these beautiful chapels in the Philippines and on Sundays.... no cars in the parking lots. It does seem strange. He gave us an interesting assignment- to find people with cars. He said we weren't just called to teach the poverty stricken people of the Philippines, we were called to teach all people here. So even though it is kind of easier to teach people who are living in very humble circumstances we need to make sure we aren't forgetting about people who have a little more. We get what we go for. If we go for families, we'll get families. He said we need to find future leaders for the church here in the Philippines. 

He also said that we've been taken away from literally everything that once gave us comfort- family, friends, ipods, etc.. and now that we're away from it all Heavenly Father can really communicate with us the things we need to know and need to learn. His wife shared a story about people base jumping in idaho into a river and how our Savior is like our parachute, we can always trust him as we take those leaps of faith. It reminded me of that talk from conference, not sure who it was, but it said something like: 
Come to the edge
No we'll fall
come to the edge
no we'll fall
come to the edge
so I came to the edge and we flew.

I really liked that story just about trusting more and being willing to push ourselves to the edge. I hit my one month mark in the Philippines on the 27th, and now that i think about it, it seems like it went kind of fast. I had another group of kids give me the same amount of attention as the other group haha, it is fun to try and talk with them using as much tagalog as I can. Our grocery store that we like had a fire last week, so sad haha that's the only place I've seen real chocolate! Hopefully the damage isn't too bad. So funny story, the other night I asked the sisters in our apartment where all the cows were that make all that noise at night. They just laughed and told me that it is frogs. I didn't believe them, but they were telling the truth! Luckily we've got our fan going all night to drown out the frog noises, the lizard noises, the chicken noises, and the bike horn noises that vendors use in the morning as they walk up and down the streets.  We went running on Saturday morning, and I loved it! Actually running outside :) Sister Manguil sat for a while as I ran up and down this same street for a while, and I guess the men that were near her were guessing that I was german haha. They even tried to say good morning to me in german haha, she laughed and told them I'm american but with some german in my blood. We are teaching a nine year old boy right now, Jerwin, and every time we go and teach he just gets the biggest smile on his face as I try and speak tagalog haha. On Sunday this member at church said to me, "You look very young- like 18" haha i was very happy. usually people say 14.  

Well that is all for now. Happy Birthday Karina! I'll try and send you a quick email before I have to go! Oh and have Spencer email me, I want to hear about Happijac! Thank you for all the emails, I can't wait to read them a little better once I print them out :) I Love you all so much, you're seriously the best! 
Mahal Kita!

-Sister Brynn Stabenow

I actually cooked a meal!

In Santiago with Sister Diola and Sister Perlas

Monday, April 22, 2013

Another week!

Hello hello hello,

This has been my favorite week here in the Philippines so far :) I am feeling much more confident about being able to learn the things I need to learn. It has taken a little longer than expected (I blame the language) but I finally feel close with my companion. I feel like things are clicking for me now too. This week as we were out walking my companion had me tell her stories about my life in Tagalog. It was helpful for me, and I'll keep doing it. I feel like I'm on the brink of progressing haha, I have so many Tagalog words and sentences flying through my mind constantly. LOTS of rain this week. We'd be teaching a lesson and once the rain started we couldn't really hear each other over the downpour. The thunder at night is awesome, it woke me up and made me jump out of bed it was so loud. So some details for you...every time I say I'm from Utah people want to talk to me about the Utah Jazz, people really like hot dogs and marshmallows here, lots of belly shirts- just the men though haha, it's pretty common for people to graduate high school at 16 here, every ailment here seems to be "high blood," Filipinos are very honest- Karina and Landon have been voted as the best looking in our family by my companion haha. The noise we make in America meaning no, means yes here since it sounds like Oo, so kind of confusing haha. Oh and if someone didn't hear what you said they open their mouths and eyes very wide to indicate that they want you to repeat what you said, it's funny to me. Also, my cousins better be ready for some fun games when we get back- Filipinos love games, so I've already got a long list of new games. Also, this week there were so many drunk men haha, and every time we were around them we had a funny experience. Yesterday we went to meet a referral, the drunk guy that lived nearby came and and was talking to us for SO long, while my companion was taking the heat doing all the talking to the drunk guy she told me I had to go and talk to some of the teenagers nearby and give them a pamphlet. She wasn't far, but I had to do it on my own for the first time. I surprised myself and knew how to say more than I thought. People get really quiet and attentive when I try and speak Tagalog haha. Then the sister came out that we were going to meet- I had to start talking to her on my own. So I did some of the get to know you stuff- gave her the lesson 1 pamphlet and then shared my testimony. I used a really simple sentence I knew and really do believe- that the gospel can help us with any challenges in our lives. She started to cry and I wanted so badly to understand. Luckily my companion was able to come over and join us. Turns out she has had a lot of trials recently, she was very open with us, and I just felt how blessed she could be by the gospel. Hopefully she will continue to have us come teach her! My favorite part of the day is when we get to go out and work with people here :) I am loving this. I found a really good quote this past week from Oct. 2012 conference from Elder Robert D. Hales: 

"We need not be afraid or feel inadequate. The Savior has promised that He will make us equal to His work. "Follow Me," He said, "and I will make you fishers of me." As we follow Him, He blesses us with gifts, talents, and the strength to do His will, allowing us to go beyond our comfort zones and do things we've never before thought possible."

This quote says it perfectly- I really am pushed beyond my comfort zone here daily and am doing things I never imagined. I know that this work is important, and I have felt His help here so much. I am so happy to be a part of this work!  I love and miss you guys :) thanks for all the prayers and encouragement. I am so blessed!

Mahal Kita,

Sister Stabenow

Brynn and the little boy who has the spiders

He keeps them in a little match box

Spider fighting is very common
FHE with some members, this little sister is 96 years old!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Banaue Rice Fields Today!

Banaue Rice Fields
this is one of the natives from this area

Sorry this is later than usual, I had a fun P-Day in Banaue!! It was so beautiful! I hope you like the pictures. Sometimes I think I was made for the Philippines… no snow, lots of sun, and the beautiful outdoors! I’m really tired and kind of sunburned now from the day, but it was really really good.

We got to watch conference this weekend at the stake center in Solano, and we watched it in English!! :) (they did have other rooms for Tagalog).

Reunited with half of her MTC District
We went to Cauayan on Thursday last week, and it was a 3 hour bus ride up there. It was gorgeous! I was SO excited to see my friends there from my district- haha they were all happy to be reunited too. We couldn’t believe it had only been 2 weeks since we got here. We’re all doing and feeling about the same. Actually I was surprised to realize that I’m probably doing a little better than some of them in terms of adjusting.  It was crazy to see the changes in all of us already. It really surprised me that one of the most confident elders from my mtc district almost went home after being here a couple days. He was at the mission home getting paperwork done to go home, and he called his family to tell them he was coming home, but the phone call helped him, and he’s still here. We’re all pretty shocked at just how different literally everything is here. It was so good to talk to them and know that we all have similar feelings. I hope they’re all doing okay. We talked about how our missions are totally different from the ones shown on "the district" dogs and chickens every where, crazy weather, and so many other things haha. None of us feel like the language is clicking, we don't absolutely love the food, and we all had funny stories to share about things people have said to us. It was a short morning in cauayan, and it was sad to say goodbye!

Oh, I saw my first white person (non-missionary) here last week at McD’s. Then today at Banaue I saw a few more…. Exciting stuff haha :) and before I forget, I was going to tell you that the Wellman’s nephew is in my zone.

So this week has been both good and bad. Sometimes I’ve felt pretty alone, but long story short, I was able to learn another good lesson. I reread most of the October conference talks this past week, and one quote has really helped me. It’s pretty simple – “self-pity is debilitating.” So yes there are ups and downs here, but I have to cling to the good and not let the bad bother me. I had a cool realization this past week as I was trying to pin down the overall feeling I have here. I especially notice this feeling as the day is winding down, we’re walking home, and I’m thinking about the day. I think I figured out the feeling- I remembered all the times I’d drive or run over to the provo temple. I’d sit and think and pray and every time I’d think to myself “I wish I didn’t have to leave, I wish I could stay and have this feeling forever.” I have felt that feeling of peace many times here, and I am so thankful for that. It confirms to me just how special missionary work is.

I’ve heard others say and have even thought to myself- you just have to get through the beginning months of the mission. That made me think of how I just got through 9th, and then 10th, and then 11th, and then 12th grade. I did get through those years, but without many memories to take with me. So I want to do more than just get through challenges here, because I am sure there will be more to come in the mission, and all throughout life. I want to enjoy it all. I liked the story that was shared in conference about a boy walking across campus in the snow storm singing a happy song. Haha maybe I’ll have to try that out to enjoy the snow when I get back.

One more thing I got out of reading past conference talks was a quote from Henry B. Eyring. I’ll tweak it a bit for me. Everything I’ve been able to accomplish and become so far in my life is “because individuals who knew me saw things in me that I couldn’t see.” I am so thankful for those that have done this for me. I am so happy now, knowing what I know, and especially knowing who I am. I am so blessed to have so many people (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, amazing leaders, and teachers) who loved me, saw more in me than I saw in myself, and as a result have changed my life. I am so very blessed, and I hope I can do that for others here.

Thank you all for the prayers and emails :) sorry I can’t respond to many this week! Time is short, but I’ll print the emails and try and read them later this week!

Mahal Kita!
-       Sister Stabenow
Looking out at the Rice Fields today

Brynns attempt at keeping a family tradition of RootBeer Floats after Priesthood session of conference.:)
Loving the rain!
DUGO- I saw this at the night market. I asked my companion if it was brownies, she laughed and then I realized it was blood. Yuck. I was not willing to try this one

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week 2

Great great week! Filled with some very important lessons I needed to learn. One day last week I was having kind of a rough day- I was stressing over how terrible my tagalog was, and i'd just sit there in lessons and not have much to say. If i were to speak in tagalog I'd feel bad and embarrassed, if i spoke in english I felt bad for not trying it in tagalog. It felt like a lose-lose situation. I was disappointed in myself i guess. I'm not fluent after one week?? what?? haha kidding. Sister Manguil had her trainer give me a call- Sister Larsen (remember how i'd read emails forwarded to me from Dr. Roper from a girl in my mission? yep thats her!) It was so good to talk to her, she was so sweet and encouraging and was willing to listen. I knew she had probably felt all of those things before as well. She told me to not worry so much, and to just enjoy this once in a life time experience. So I've been learning to be more patient with myself and to laugh at myself when i make mistakes. My days here have been so much better. Instead of stressing during lessons I try to really listen so i can hopefully say something to help the people we're teaching. I've been feeling much better about the lessons. I still don't feel like I've found the best way for me to learn Tagalog yet, but one thing I do know- a good attitude seems to be making it all easier. 

We haven't watched conference here, I wasn't even really sure when it was happening, I just knew that it was coming up. I think we'll get to watch it next week though, I'll let you know. 

Some random things- the hut that we were in in that picture is just outside of our house (front yard), we eat meals out there sometimes if it is too hot inside, even with our fans.  I'm the first foreigner to be training in this area, so they aren't used to seeing the struggle with the language. Tagalog is trazy. haha. There was a rainstorm last night, it didn't take long to be completely soaked :) I loved it! Our area has a ton of less actives, so most of our lessons are with less actives. Oh and dad, maganda means beautiful. And thank you so much for the pictures!!! I am loving seeing all of your faces :)  More random... lots of bugs here. There are ants all over our house. My nightly routine usually involves me flicking off some bugs from my bed and then hoping for the best. we also have two lizards in our room. I have this fear of reaching in to turn on the light and grabbing a lizzard instead. We also have huge nasty cockroaches, i'll send a picture of my first encounter with one in our apartment- I was screaming.. a lot haha. I've read some awesome talks this week, if you haven't read them recently read them! His grace is sufficient by Brad Wilcox. Of Regrets and Resolutions by Uchtdorf, and Mountains to Climb by Elder Eyring.

Some of my favorite things about this week- I had a true Filipino experience- I ate balut, i know some people told me not to, but i wanted to haha, and it really wasn't too bad (i kind of liked it), luckily mine wasn't super developed. I've found some new friends here, we went to a member's house to see if we could meet his 15 year old granddaughter that he wanted us to teach, she wasn't there, but instead we met several of his other grandkids. They stare at me so much, and I just smile and try to talk to them as much as I can. They are SO cute. So we went into Bro. Guiner's house to visit with him for a minute and all of the grandkids followed... so we taught them all how to pray. Then on Sunday, I was happily surprised as I saw Bro. Guiner sitting there with some of the grandkids with him. I was happy to see them all there. Then after church yesterday we went to see if the 15 year old, Beverly, was there, she was and so we taught her and we set a baptismal date with her :) all of the other kids were there as well. At the end of the lesson Sis. Manguil always asks if they have any questions. It usually goes something like... why is your skin white, why is your nose like that, why are your eyes green, what is it like in Utah, why is your hair soft, what shampoo do you use hahaha. One of them will work up the courage to touch my skin or my hair, and before you know it I am covered by little kids. They like when I try to speak Tagalog with them, and yesterday they had me say nga nge ngi ngo ngu, which is actually really really hard for me haha. So I'd try and say it, and they'd all just laugh, luckily I found it just as funny, so I was laughing the whole time. I'll be practicing that a lot before I go back haha. Yesterday we taught two sixteen year old boys, I thought right away about Landon :) I thought about what I would do for my own brother, or what I would want to say to him if he didn't have the gospel in his life. It was really cool. I feel like I am seeing people differently, I love these people, complete strangers, but I care so much about them.

Well I will wrap this all up. I am so so very blessed. I know I will never be the same because of the experiences I am having here. I love you all so much and am so thankful for all of your love and encouraging emails. 

- Love Sister Stabenow

BALUT!!!  I kind of liked it!

I found some new friends!

I Look out the window and what do I see!!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter!

Hello from the Philippines! I don't know where to even begin! Thank you for the emails! I had two DearElders waiting for me at the mission home when I got here. One from Kassie and one from Jeff. I'm sure I was supposed to get them earlier at the MTC, but I'm glad they were waiting for me here. It was nice to have some encouragement right when I got here. 

 It was said saying goodbye to my district and Sister McNaught especially, I will really miss having her as my companion! It was so crazy actually getting on the bus and leaving the MTC at 4 in the morning. It was so fun to see Provo again. Even though I didn't sleep at all the night before the big trip I was so excited as we were heading to the airport. It was the longest trip of my life. But luckily I was able to sleep on the plane ride from Hawaii to Guam. We also were the lucky group that got to fly to Cauayan instead of the 10 hour bus ride. The first thing I noticed about the Philippines is obviously the heat.Kelsey, this is nothing like California heat haha. I feel like I am in a Sauna all day here :) my favorite time is the evenings though when it starts to cool down around 6.   

So I am in the Solano Zone in Bayombong District B. My trainer/nanay, Sister Manguil, and I are opening this area (as in we're both new here). So this is a challenge for both of us. She has been in the mission for 6 months. I love her already, she only speaks to me in Tagalog, and she is definitely patient with me. We live with two other sisters as well, Sister Fugaban (from Cauayan), and Sister Len Wai (from Hawaii). It's nice to have Sister Len Wai around to talk to in English when my brain is just tired of Tagalog. I feel like the Elder on the best two years here "should I write that down?" haha. I write so many new words down all the time. Hopefully some of it is sticking. I feel pretty useless with my Tagalog, but I try not to stress over it too much. I really am trying my best. We've been with the other sisters a lot this past week, because it is their area that has been split into two. I will be working in the east part of Bayombong. I seriously am so lucky to be here in this area. some reasons why:
- It is the "coldest" zone in our mission. 
- we have a really nice place to live: we have a toilet that flushes, and even a shower. but... its a huge rush of cold water, so I've been using the bucket method for showering instead. I kinda like it!
- we are close-ish to the Banaue rice terraces!!!!! so we are going there on April 15th!
- the members here are so willing to help with missionary work
-  there is a "Save More" which is similar to the grocery stores back home... just different food.
- i hear there is a mc donalds, but i haven't seen it yet

So about the food. I sucessfully avoided having rice at the MTC, because I knew what was up ahead. There is rice at every meal. There are not breakfast types of food, so for breakfast-rice, oh and for dessert? rice cakes haha. I am pretty willing to try everything here, but it is very different. I do love the mangoes here though.

I haven't seen another white person in this area. So that being said, I am watched and stared at like never before. They like my green eyes and "blonde" hair haha. It gets really embarrassing. I am called Barbie or Princess, or just Maganda here. If any of you americans would like lots of attention and compliments just come here and walk down any street haha. I see people pull out their phones and take pictures of me, or they yell to me and try to speak english to me. On Sunday three grown women were suddenly around me and we were taking a picture, I think people are going to be pretty willing to talk to the missionaries haha. Oh and guess what, even though I am taller than a lot of them, i still get told all the time that I look like i'm 14. story of my life.

Grandma, thanks for showing me all of the pictures of your mission and telling me stories before I came here. I think they helped me a bit with the culture shock. But still I can't believe the things I am seeing- little kids begging outside of the stores, skinny skinny people, and the homes of people here are so very different. I think I've taken SO much for granted in my life-  a bed to sleep on for example. And Grandma, I finally understand what you mean about the singing here being interesting. haha it's great. Also, I wish I would've learned the hymns on piano, that would come in handy here. 

So since it was my first Sunday here my Nanay and I gave talks in Sacrament meeting. People do know a lot of English here, so I was able to do about 50/50. I know I need to speak more Tagalog though. I spend a lot of time here just listening and trying to understand. My trainer will tell me a joke, but when she is finished I'm still behind trying to figure out the first sentence haha. It gets frustrating cause most of the time I really don't know where we are going or what we are doing, or what people are asking me. I am understanding more each day, but little by little. I have to be patient with myself and not expect myself to have this all figured out already. I am loving working with investigators and less actives. This is the real thing now, and it's so exciting. I am motivated to learn more Tagalog so that I really can communicate with them. Luckily people learn by the spirit though, and not by a language. So all I can do right now is try to teach by the spirit. 

I thought I prayed a lot in the MTC, but I'm praying even more now. Whenever I get sad or frustrated I find myself praying because I know that I need to stop thinking about myself. Every time I do, I am given SO much reassurance and comfort. I can feel how much my Heavenly Father loves me and believes in me, and that gives me the faith to keep trying. I wish you could all see the things I am seeing. This place is amazing. Mom, thanks for forwarding me that letter from Tyler, and he is definitely right. I feel very close to my Heavenly Father right now as I am relying on him so much. We had a Family Home Evening with a family here, one of my first nights, and as a closing song we sang Families Can Be Together Forever. A wave of emotion hit me as I remembered you all and thought about you as we sang. I was sad at first, but then I was comforted as I was filled with so much gratitude for the family and life that I have been given. I am so thankful that we have the gospel in our lives. I am praying for you always, and I know that I don't need to worry. I know that this mission isn't for me. I want so badly for the people we are teaching to have what I have and to know what I know. Sometimes I wish I could just give them all that I know, but then I thought about it and realized it wouldn't be worth it to them. The things I know and believe are so valuable to me because of the work I had to do to learn. I also know that the things I am learning now are going to be so valuable and precious to me, I am going to learn things that will help me for the rest of my life. 

Everything is so different and so new, but I am happy and doing well. I need to finish up, but thank you all for the love and encouragement. I have the best family and friends behind me in this. I love and miss you all!

- Sister Stabenow

we went and got dinner one night. I just thought this was a funny picture. My nanay has her arm around me like normal, and then I have a filipino staring at me. haha she is one of the branch missionaries- she's hilarious.
At the Church
We did laundry this morning. Turns out there is way more to it than I thought. It's an art haha. It took at least two hours to do everything.

I Love my Life!

At a rice field