Marami Biyaya (Lots of Blessings)

(I, mom, am taking out the names because I am not sure she got permission to have me post that.)

Wow the Philippines is ESTIG!! (Cool). Best week yet! So I really want to focus this email on some neat things that happened that show how Heavenly Father really has a hand in this work and that He really does prepare people to hear this message of the gospel. I’m just going to go in order of how they happened in the week.

So Sister XXX! An 18 year-old referral from this incredible, all convert family. She is dating one of the 17 year-old sons who is preparing to go on a mission. Sister Simbol and I really pushed to get a referral from the XXX family and they finally wrote her name down when we passed around the referral sheet a couple weeks ago. So we were finally able to teach her on Tuesday and it went SO good. So Monday, we stopped by the XXX’s and assigned parts for them to teach and testify about. Then the lesson went great. Even though my Tagalog was still pretty bad, I was confident in my teaching and the Spirit can teach to the hearts of the people. So by the end, I invited her to be baptized and not only did she say yes, but she committed to June 22!! We’re gonna have to work really hard to get her taught by then but hopefully we can keep that date for her. She started crying when she said yes and most of the family, including her boyfriend, were also crying. The spirit was so strong and it was such a great experience for Sophie and for the family. We have another appointment with her Tuesday!

So last week, this lady randomly came up to Sister Simbol and me and started asking about foster care or something. We found out she is a single mother of three and she has been really struggling. Sister Simbol told her we couldn’t help with foster care or anything but that our message could bless her life. She agreed to let us come by and so she finally was available this week. First of all she is a sweetheart and she kept telling me how pretty I was (not! at least here as a missionary haha). But we taught her part of lesson one and she started crying when we were talking about families. I think partly because she feels really lonely being a single mother but she kept saying that she could feel something in her heart and that she couldn’t describe it. Well no secret there that she was feeling the spirit. She asked us to go visit her sick mother so a referral (unfortunately she isn’t in our area), she asked US if she could go to church (again unfortunately she wasn’t able to go because she had to sell coal that day, she doesn’t have a job and is sooo poor but hopefully next Sunday!) and she agreed to read the Book Mormon and start praying. Of course she still has her free agency to either accept or to not, but I know she has been prepared. And the best part is, she just walked into our hands! So neat.

A couple weeks ago, we were walking to go visit a backup backup plan because we had gotten punted so much and I felt like I needed to talk to this lady. So we stopped and I started talking to Sister XXX. She didn’t seem interested but Sister Simbol asked if she knew any Mormons. She said that she did and it was someone that we had never heard of. It turned out that this family moved from Manila but has been inactive and I don’t think anyone knew about them. So after a few tries, we finally go in to teach them the other night. The father and grandma were offended and so no one else has been baptized. Well we ended up teaching the grandma, Sister XXX and the granddaughter, Sister XXX. And actually like 7 other girls ages 1 to probably 15 who were hanging around. Well when we first met the grandma, I saw Sister XXX in the back and I felt strongly that she was the reason we were there. After teaching, I still feel that way even though the grandma actually agreed to let us come back so maybe we can reactivate her. Anyways, we didn’t teach a whole ton but the little that we did teach went so good. The spirit was so strong and all of those girls just loved hearing my terrible Tagalog testimony. They have dirt floors and you can tell that life has been hard for all of them. But after teaching them, Sister Simbol asked how there were feeling and they all responded, “Masaya po!” (Happy!) Sister Maricar always has the biggest smile and I love all those girls so much. Can’t wait to teach them again and see how things go!

The XXX family has never been to the temple and they’ve been inactive. So Sister Simbol and I have been teaching them and have been trying to focus on getting them to the temple. The wife is sick and she really wants to sealed as a family but they’ve had lots of trials so life has just been hard. Well we have committed them to pray as a family a couple times and they haven’t been doing it until this week. Well before we even asked if they had been praying, Sister XXX and Brother XXX brought it up. Brother XXX was so excited to tell us that they’d been doing it and that their little son now goes up to him and says, “Daddy, we need to pray!” Total difference in how happy they seemed and that was just from saying family prayer. Mahalaga ang manalangin bilang pamilia. (Important to pray as a family!)

Sister XXX has been taught by the missionaries for a while and she really has been progressing, but every time Sister Simbol and I try to commit her to baptism, she would say that she wasn’t ready. Well she finally committed to June 22!! And she really does her commitments so I really think she’ll actually get baptized on that date.

So another referral we got the from sign up sheet is Sister XXX who we haven’t been able to teach. Well yesterday she wasn’t home, but her 22 year-old daughter, Sister XXX was home so we decided to teach her. Again just another great first lesson and she’s going to start reading the Book of Mormon.

So lots of great things happened this week! I’m sure this might be normal for more experienced missionaries but for me still being pretty green, it was such an exciting week. We only had 1 investigator, Sister XXX, come to church so that was hard, but hopefully we’ll get more to commit this week. Lots of them just had things comes up that they had to do.

So I get better and better every week at Tagalog but this week I understood a TON more! Just figuring out words like “parang” (their equivalent word to the english filler “like”) helps so much. But now since I understand lots more, Sister Simbol has of course been doing her job, and has started to push me even more and isn’t as much of a translator crutch anymore. Oh but we had a trainers/trainees meeting this Wednesday, (so fun cuz I got to see half of my batchmates) and after I practiced teaching one of the AP’s he told me that my Tagalog was the best out of anyone he’s heard in my batch! So, definitely not getting prideful or anything cuz I know it’s not me, but that was exciting to hear!

So I’m proud to report that I killed two cockroaches this week. They are so huge and so gross and when you set up on them, guts go everywhere. So anyways after I killed the second, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for not freaking out at all. So then as I went to clean it up, it somehow was still alive enough to crawl away. I freaked out haha. Ewwww. But I’m getting lots better.

I made pasta this week! With mushrooms (just canned), chicken, basil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, little peppers and a kind of cream sauce from powered milk. Not too bad!

I love the mission more and more everyday. Oh and today we got to go see a waterfall for our district activity! Things still are so hard sometimes but the good times are so rewarding. We have a lot of new investigators so hopefully we can get them to be progressing investigators and then members!

Love everyone and am so grateful for all the support!

Sister Jaycee Taylor

Loving Life!

Well Kumusta everyone!

Can’t believe another week has gone by. The days are really starting to go fast which is crazy because everyone says that the first transfer seems like forever and then time speeds up. So I’m sure my next transfer is going to go by even faster, but I’m getting close to the end of my first transfer! This week we had Zone Conference which was soooooo fun. The only downfall about Zone Conferences is we miss proselyting time but besides that it was so great. We were in the airconned stake center all day and they fed us lunch and snacks! It was especially good though to hear from President Bliesner and to feel uplifted to work even harder. And I got to see some of my batchmates!! And guess what?! A mission is hard for everyone! Struggling with the language, companions, culture, heat, homesickness, food, bathrooms and just everything is totally normal! But we all agreed that even though it is hard, it is so great and so rewarding. Not only have I survived these weeks, but I have really started to love missionary life in the Philippines. So some things we found out at ZC, there is an elder from China coming to our mission in June or July! He knows some English but that’s pretty cool. I think I might have mentioned this in one of my MTC emails, but mission presidents are now going to call “Sister Training Leaders.” They will kind of act like AP’s in the mission and they will go on splits with all the sisters. The increase in sisters has really started to change things but it is exciting!

So life really feels normal now, but when I think of culture differences I still want to tell you guys about them. So there’s KFC and McDonald’s here in Naga so last Monday, I felt like I really wanted just a little something from back home so we went to KFC. Totally not KFC. They had Halo-Halo, the KFC bowls was just rice and chicken 😉 and almost everything comes with rice. Not mashed potatoes or macaroni in sight haha. Oh and I’ve heard McDonald’s has spaghetti  which I guess is pretty common but it is really different than American because the sauce is sweet. Brown outs are common here (exactly same thing as a black out… not sure why it’s called a brown out). Totally fine when the lights go out but when the fans go off and we’re home studying, that is when it gets hot! Oh so there are little bakeries everywhere! At first I just ignored them but then I tried some of the super cheap baked things they have and they are soooo good. There’s this one thing called “pandecoco” which is a roll with I think brown sugar and coconut. Masirap! Mice running around my room during studying is a totally normal thing now. Doesn’t even phase me. Oh and seeing an American is not a common thing at all. Now when I see Americans I find myself staring at them! The other day I saw this younger  American guy and I said, “Amerikano!” I’m really becoming a Filipina.

I had my first cleaning check this last week. It was nice to get our apartment cleaned up more but goodness, I have never sweated so much from just cleaning! We got a perfect score. My kasama and I got chased my dogs… Sister Simbol was smart and got her umbrella out but I just ran away screaming haha. Next time I’ll be more calm about it. Thank you mom for telling me how hot it was this week because wow it was sooooo hot on Friday I think it was. 92 degrees but with humidity 125 degrees sounds about right. When the Filipinos start complaining about the heat then you know it is hot. It rained/flooded last Monday but the real rainy season hasn’t hit so still waiting for that! But like I’ve said, even though it’s been hot it doesn’t bother me NEAR as much as it did the first few days. For like the first week I was taking showers in the morning and at night because I just had to cool down. Luckily I’m fine with just a morning shower now. So yesterday for church I had to play for sacrament meeting and relief society with no warning. I actually did it last week too! Just sometimes the pianist just doesn’t show up so I’m the fill in now:) Some hymns have been worse than others, but for the most part I can play most without warning and be able to get through them alright. I’m so glad I know how to play though! Sister Simbol was asked to speak 5 minutes before sacrament meeting and she did great and talked about missionary work. Totally know that will happen to me sometime. I just hope I can get my Tagalog a little bit better before that happens. So Bishop Silos has spoken 3 times since I’ve been here. (I’ve been here 4 Sundays and one Sunday was fast Sunday). I finally asked Sister Simbol if he just plans on speaking every week haha and she said that no he doesn’t but it seems like they have a hard time getting people to speak and to actually show up.

Okay so the work! Things are really going well. We lost one of our investigators and will lose another soon because of moving away for various reasons, but we also got 3 new investigators this week. We did a lot of contacting this week so we should have hopefully at least 2 new investigators next week too. We’ve had to move some baptismal dates back but hopefully we should have one on June 1st and one on June 22nd. We have a couple other investigators that are really ready so hopefully we’ll commit them this week too. We had this really powerful lesson yesterday with one of our investigators, Sister Rose (17). She has been saying that she wants to be baptized but every time we teach her, her real intent and following up with commitments like reading the Book of Mormon and praying just wasn’t happening. Well yesterday we asked about her desire to be baptized and how she thought it would bless her life. Well she started crying and at one point all three of us were crying because the spirit was so strong and we saw some real intent! She is moving on June 3 so we’re really hoping to get her ready before she leaves so she can be baptized on June 1 and confirmed on June 2. (Most people don’t say 1st they just say June 1 or June 2 or whatever haha).

Anyways… my call last week to the family was so fun! Thanks everyone! The elders that walked by a million times thought you all looked so good. One of them, Elder Salas (one of the AP’s) said you looked like the “Perfect Mormon Family” haha so that was cute. You really are the perfect family! Love and miss you guys so much. I pray for you all the time and don’t think about you too much so I can focus ;). Enjoy cool air and yummy food for me.

This church is so true and so incredible. I would not be doing this if I had any doubt in my mind. I am here because I know what a blessing it is to have the gospel in my life. And not even to just have it but to live it. We are all focused on our goal to return to our Heavenly Father because He loves us more that we can comprehend. I am so glad I have this wonderful opportunity to serve a mission!

Mahal Kita,

Sister Taylor

Ayos!

So happy cuz I just finished talking with the family! Thanks everyone for the great phone call and sorry I was crying through half of it haha. You all look so good and my kasama agrees.

So I’m not sure what to tells you guys cuz I already told you some of it in the phone call! But things went really well this week. We worked really hard and it just flew by. My teaching has really improved! The things we study in Preach My Gospel and of course as my Tagalog gets better, really helps. I love being able to understand more cuz now I usually have somewhat of an idea as to what is going on in the lesson and then it makes it easier for me to teach. My kasama also used to do a lot of translating for me which can sometimes really distract from the lesson, but luckily she hasn’t had to do as much of that lately.

We had zone training this Thursday which was pretty fun. Oh! It’s really sad because there is this Sister who came out with my batch who has had such a hard time adjusting that she got reassigned to serve in the Provo, Utah mission. She is a convert and has such a great conversion story, but the humidity, food and culture was just too much for her. She is from Texas too which I thought was supposed to be humid but I guess it just doesn’t compare to the Filipino heat ;). I’m pretty tough huh! So that’s kind of sad, but she’s excited to back to America. Anyways the zone training was great and mission president was able to go which made it better. It really helped me want to improve my teaching. Teaching simply, powerfully and doctrine based is so key.

It is frustrating at times because I feel like there are all these things I’m supposed to implement into my teaching that would be so easy if I could do it in English! But everyone is suppose to have the chance to hear the gospel in their own language so I just have to be patient with myself and continue learning as much as I can. The language will come! Some things in Tagalog just make me laugh though. Example: some verbs you conjugate by just adding “mag” to the front and then the root verb. So some common Taglish verbs are “magtext,” “magjeep” (to ride the jeepney), “magshare” (there really is a Tagalog verb for this but magshare is pretty common) and “magpray” (which also has two other Tagalog verbs but I think magpray is used more commonly by members than magdasal and manalangin which are the real Tagalog verbs for pray.) Crazy English-influenced language haha.

I know I already told my family family about this, but yesterday we sent around a “Referral Sign-up Sheet” in Relief Society and we got 5 referrals! One isn’t in our area but still. We have soooooo much work to do, which is a great thing! But I just wish I wasn’t training so we had that additional companionship study hour for working cuz we just have so many people we really should visit and teach. But the hour is good cuz I still have LOTS to learn as a missionary. Still a fairly green greenie.

So yes we have 4 investigators with baptismal dates so hopefully we’ll get them prepared in time! Missionary work is so exciting and has already been such a blessing. I am so extremely grateful for this time I have to serve. It is such a short time and I know it will go by fast so I’m going to work as hard as I can! Hopefully I’ll have more to talk about next week. Love everyone and enjoy this week!

Sister Jaycee Taylor

Really a missionary!

Hey sorry this is so late. I went to Utah for a couple of days and didn’t get Jaycee’s most recent email posted. So here it is.

Hello everyone!

Alright! So the Philippines…. what a crazy, wonderful place haha. I am finally over the culture shock (except when I wake up in the mornings cuz sometimes I wake up and almost forget that I’m here haha) and I am actually starting to really love the totally completely different culture. I’ll talk about more culture stuff later though if I get time.

So this week really was great. Since I’m in training for 12 weeks, we have an extra hour of companionship study so we have less work time but we still have been plenty busy teaching appointments. Missionary work is WORK and if you do it right, it is hard work. But wow it is rewarding. I have always loved church, but I love it even more as a missionary because I get to see investigators or less active members follow through with their commitments to go to church. But of course it is very to see some not follow through. But we’ll keep working hard so we can get more and more to church! We had 4 investigators go to church and 17 less active/recent converts. Our goal was 8 for investigators so we definitely need to work on that, and 15 for LARC so that was good! A big focus for the whole mission is on the less active members. But we do need to have it balanced and focus on our investigators. Some of the biggest issues we’ve already faced with investigators is the family members. Especially here in the Philippines, it is extremely important to have family approval. We have 3 sister investigators ages 20, 26 and 33 who all have some sort of concern regarding what a family member thinks about them getting baptized. Many have the view that if you’re born catholic you die catholic. So we have been trying to build their faith and get them to take that step so hopefully we’ll make progress this week!

My Tagalog… well in the MTC I just felt like I could learn everything so fast and here…. haha I just know I have so much to learn that sometimes it is overwhelming. But I really have seen progress in just one week and the key is to pray sincerely for the gift of tongues every morning and throughout the day. My understanding during lessons has gotten better and hopefully my grammar and vocab has increased and gotten better. I am always trying to work on it and so whenever my kasama and I are walking somewhere, I usually practice teaching her. It takes forever to say just one sentence because I try to have perfect grammar when I’m teaching her, but it really has been helping, I think ;). What a crazy language though. Oh and Bicol is a dialect to Tagalog so it is very similar but the main difference is just different words. The grammar is pretty much the same but the words are completely different. Many times our investigators talk in Bicagalog and I can hardly understand any of that. We’ll see how that goes.

So on a spiritual note: I am SO grateful for Eternal Families. That knowledge is so key to the gospel. Eternal salvation is the greatest gift from God D&C 6:13. But as a family it is like a million times better. I also have really come to appreciate this time I have to do my best to bring God’s children back home. The parable of the lost sheep and D&C 18 really stuck out to me this week. How great is this work and how great will be our joy if we bring just one soul back home. Luckily since I have felt more adjusted this last week, I have been able to really start pushing myself which I hope I’ll be able to do my whole mission. I am so determined to serve with all my heart so that I will have no regrets when I’m done.

Alright so the culture… I know I already said a lot last week but here’s some more things I noticed that will hopefully help you get to know the Filipino culture more. Food: First of all, everyone eats with a spoon and fork. Spoon in right hand and you use it for cutting, the fork is more of just a help for getting the food on the spoon. It is actually way easier to eat rice with a spoon so we’ll see how I eat when I get back haha. Now rice, obviously they eat a lot of rice. But they eat so much rice that one of their delicacies that I tried a couple days ago are these coconut rice cookie things called palitaw. Pretty good I guess but I just thought that was funny. I tried root crap ice cream and pudding this week which is purple. Still not sure what root crap is but that’s what they tell me when I ask about it haha. I also tried avocado ice cream which is also good and thank goodness they have ice cream because I have definitely missed my dairy products. I ate a fish head, the whole thing. It wasn’t too bad except for being extremely salty. I ate a banana-que, barbequed banana. I finally have had the famous adobe which is probably one of the most popular dishes here. I actually haven’t tried too much because we don’t get fed that often. Most meals my kasama and I just make which has actually been a struggle. The best grocery store here would be a very terrible Safeway or City Market in America. I was lucky to find mustard though so I think we’ll be having hot dogs a lot ;). We eat mostly rice and eggs and whatever we can find to go with rice. We do have a fridge but no oven or microwave so mom if you can think of any great recipes with just using a stove and most just fresh veggies and seasonings that’d be great! They do have powdered milk that works for cooking so there’s that too. Oh but no cheese which kills me haha.

So I don’t think I talked about this last week, but being an American, I definitely stick out. Even though I still have dark hair, it is still much lighter than Filipinos. And obviously my skin and face is a give away. So I am used to it now, but pretty much everywhere we go I get yelled at haha. And especially here in Naga, there are people everywhere. Even though it feels like a million degrees outside, people are always everywhere outside. So anyways here’s a list of names I’ve been called: sisters (of course the most common), sis, elders, Amerikana or kana for short, Joe, Barbie, megandang maputi (which means beautiful white), I love you (yes in English) and very common among the kids, “Hey! What’s your name?” I started messing with the kids and now I answer “dalawang pung taon ako” which means I’m 20 years old haha, that confuses them.

Filipino humor is such a funny thing. It’s funny because well, it just really isn’t that funny. They think the littlest things are just so funny. Most people say “Taylor Swift!” when I introduce myself and they think that’s pretty funny. I’ll try to give examples of some of their jokes in later emails.

Time here is so weird. We hardly ever make appointments! Most people just say come by whenever and so that’s what we do. It is hit and miss with some people, but with our faithful investigators we are able to teach them without an appointment. And if you say lunch at 12, that usually means lunch at 1 (like today with our ward mission leader haha). The church clock even runs 5 minutes slow and we always get done like 15 minutes late. Surprisingly though, most people are on time for sacrament meeting (well according to the church clock.)

Driving is nuts here. The roads are used mostly for jeepney’s tricycles, taxes and huge buses. Most 2 lane roads are used as 4 lane roads with the shoulder. Except the outside shoulder is more of a pedestrian/bike/passing/drop off/pick up lane. So just anything goes on the shoulder.

Along the streets, there are fruit stands and little food stands everywhere. The smells are sooo different and I have never smelled anything like the food and just everything here haha. The election is coming up so the whole town is decorated with TONS of posters. Except when someone posts a posted of one of the candidates, they post at least 20 all together, just so they make sure you know who it is haha.

Oh karaoke is SOOO big here haha. We probably see a karaoke party going on everyday.

Dad: thank you for my great umbrella! I use it everyday! No it hasn’t rained everyday cuz it is still summer (although rainy season should be soon!!) but I use an umbrella for the sun and most people do when it is really sunny.

Well I think that is it for this week. Count your blessing because we all have been blessed with so much, especially for the gospel. I love this gospel and I love my Heavenly Father. I am so thankful I have this opportunity to serve even it is hard work. Good luck everyone with the hard things your facing but always rely on the Lord.
Mahal Kita!

Sister Jaycee Taylor