Monday, December 15, 2014

December 14, 2014

Maayong Aga!

It's officially my last letter home on the mission. We traveled to Bacolod earlier this morning. I have my departing interview with President Lopez later this evening, tomorrow we have our different meetings and trainings with the farewell fireside at the mission home that night. Then Wednesday morning we fly to Manila, and Thursday morning I'll be flying home to you.

Yesterday was my last day of proselytizing, and it still feels kind of surreal. I have so many mixed emotions, and my thoughts are all scattered, but overall I feel content that the Lord has accepted my sacrifice and efforts the past eighteen months. Last night we were able to watch the Christmas Devotional at the stake center, and I was just filled with joy and love knowing that I've been able to help others come closer to the precious gift that Heavenly Father has given us. This past weekend we had L's baptism, he's the younger brother of L who we baptized a couple of weeks ago and then yesterday I spoke in sacrament meeting. The topic they gave me was "New Year's Resolutions," how we can set goals to change and be better, but mostly I just focused on how I've changed the past year, the things I've learned, and what things I want to continue in the new year to come. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my mission- on those things that I've learned, how my faith, testimony, and knowledge has grown, and how I've come to more fully understand my purpose here. I'm so grateful that I've been able to serve the Lord the past eighteen months. I'm so grateful for the blessings and miracles I've seen. I'm grateful for the constant love, support, and prayers from the two of you. One of the greatest things I'll come home with is a greater appreciation of your sacrifices and examples that you have given me, not just while on the mission but growing up as well.

I love you so much and can't wait to see you on Thursday. I'm sure it will be a joyful and teary reunion :)

Sister Fitzgerald

Flying to Manila to process exit visa

A stop at the Manila temple

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, 2014

Maayong Aga!

I have a little over a week left and I don't really know what I'm feeling. I'm exhausted and tired and am so excited to see everyone and come back home, yet at the same time, I cry thinking about leaving the Philippines, and the mission, and the moment when I have to take off my nametag. I'm even tearing up now thinking about it as a I write this letter, and I still have over a week. I have a feeling the next weeks are going to be a little emotional. But overall, I'm just more than grateful for the experiences I've had here on the mission and for the experiences I've had growing up in our home that led me to deciding to serve a mission in the first place. Here on the mission, it's definitely been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Many tears have been shed, both of joy and of sadness. But I wouldn't exchange those experiences for anything. Last Monday we stayed over in Bacolod because we had MLC the following morning. We slept at the Bacolod 2nd ward sister's apartment, my first area. I went out and worked with Sister Foote and I was able to see one of my first converts, Tony. I just wanted to cry. He's still so strong, wanting to serve a mission, and now two of his coworkers have since joined the church. That's only one experience of so many where you are just filled with the love, and joy, and the Spirit. On the mission, I've experienced that rich satisfaction that comes to us only when we know we helped another along the pathway to eternal life. I have come to know my Savior and my Heavenly Father in a way and to a degree that might not have happened otherwise or that might have taken me much longer. I've not only seen the gospel bless the lives and change the hearts of others, but experienced that change of heart as well. The past weekend when we were under apartment lockdown during the typhoon, we had a Liahona reading marathon. But one quote that I loved which reminded me of the two of you was, "If we truly have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it will manifest itself in our lives." One of the greatest things I'll take away from the mission is an even greater love and appreciation for both you and Dad. Thank you for your support, prayers, and constant love, not only from the past eighteen months, but from the past twenty plus years. 

But with that said, this week was definitely a little more exciting than others. Tuesday we had MLC at the mission home. Sister Oquias and I had to "edper" in front of everybody, which basically means role play, and pretend we were teaching an investigator. We do those types of things in almost all training meetings, but it was a little more nerve wracking knowing our audience is President Lopez and all other leaders from the mission.... but it all turned out okay haha. Then Wednesday, we had ward home evening at the church as a farewell to the sister leaving on her mission. Thursday we gave our training at our zone meeting and then Friday, after working in the morning, we were put on lockdown that night until Saturday. We were planning on just staying in our apartment for lockdown, but then president sent a text saying anyone who lives close to the ocean or in the mountains had to transfer to the city. Considering you can see the ocean from our apartment, only a two minute walk away, we hurried to pack some things and transferred to another sister's apartment for the weekend. Yet, the typhoon never even came to us. There was hardly a drizzle of rain this weekend. We spent Friday night and all day Saturday trying not to go crazy while being stuck inside. We all had cabin fever. But on Sunday morning the lockdown was over and we were able to go to church and work that afternoon. What's especially sad is that over 300 people from Pulupandan evacuated in our church building, yet come Sunday morning there was hardly any members at sacrament meeting.... It's hard because you see everybody preparing for the storm physically, but do they realize that we need to prepare spiritually for the future? But I guess that's when missionaries and members come into the picture, to help them realize and prepare. But overall, it was a good week. It's definitely bittersweet - the mission coming to a close, but I'm glad I still have a full week left of full-time proselytizing time.

I love you! See you in a little over a week!

Sister Fitzgerald

November 30, 2014

Happy December and Merry Christmas!

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I feel like I can officially begin to celebrate this Christmas season. Even though the Philipinos started celebrating three months ago, I guess I still have a little bit of American blood left in me considering I feel like I have to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to officially welcome in the Christmas season. It's bittersweet though knowing that I'll be home with you all when that Christmas day actually arrives.

Every week, Sister Oquias and I choose a topic to share when we visit members and even sometimes less actives. In celebration of this Christmas season, we've been sharing about Jesus Christ and his life. It's given me the opportunity to reflect on what I've learned of him and about him since I've begun my mission. I realized that the purpose of my mission was to not only serve God, but to become more like our Savior. And I've only done that from coming to know him. If you haven't watched this yet, ( do it. I'm so grateful for the gift that Heavenly Father gave us, the gift of Jesus Christ. And I'm so grateful that I've come to know him on a more personal level these past few months. His gift truly was a gift of love, peace, hope, and life for all of his children. The life of Jesus Christ is a legacy and symbolism of his love and I have come to feel and know of that great love here. Whenever we teach of his life or of the Atonement, the spirit is always so strong. He was willing to do so much, if not all, because of his love for each and everyone of us. I think one of the most prettiest scriptures of all time is 
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I hope that I'll not only embrace and cherish this gift this Christmas season, but will continue to discover his love and feel of it even after the mission.

This past week we had exchanges with Sister Rey and Sister Judd. I stayed in the area with Sister Rey, and it was fun to be reunited again for a day. It's weird to believe that it's been almost a year since we were companions in Binalbagan. Sister Oquias and I also celebrated Thanksgiving by cooking a traditional Philipino dessert called Maja Blanca (?) and then making a mango float. Yesterday, an outgoing missionary gave her farewell talk in our ward. She was crying because she was leaving her family yet she hasn't started her mission yet,  and I was crying mostly because I know my time as a missionary is coming to an end. It truly is so bittersweet. I've had so many mixed emotions but mostly I'm just overwhelmingly grateful that I chose to serve a mission. Every night I wear my name tag to bed and I know I will cry the day I have to take it off. But will also cry because that will be the day I see you all again. I miss you all, yet I already know I will miss the mission. I remember back in the MTC when Maddy shared this quote, but I feel like it adequately encompasses what I'm feeling. "That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." -Emily Dickinson.

I love you all! 
Sister Fitzgerald

November 23, 2014

Good morning family!!

In all honesty, I totally forgot that it's Thanksgiving this weekend and next week. It's almost December. Crazy how fast time flies. Before we know, Maddy's going to be married and it will be the new year! 

This week has definitely been eventful! Last Monday, we traveled to Bacolod and met up with the rest of my batch going home in December. For our emigration clearance, all missionaries are required to travel to Manila for fingerprinting at the bureau of emigration. The trip was exhausting. At 5 am the next morning, we were in the jeepney on the way to the airport. From the airport we headed straight to the bureau and were there processing our papers until 2 in the afternoon. It was the longest process and was definitely a test of my patience. But what's sad is that because there was so many of us, it took so long, and we didn't have time to go through a session at the temple. But once we were finished, the driver took us to the temple, and even though we didn't have time for a session, we were able to walk around the grounds and sit inside for a while. There really is nothing that compares to the temple. From the outside you can feel of its power and from the inside, you can sense not only the presence of the Holy Ghost but the presence of our Heavenly Father and Savior. This past week I've really been reflecting on what's required of us to not only be baptized for my investigators, but what's required of us to be worthy to enter the temple. And in the end, I came away with an even greater appreciation and gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Only through Christ's sacrifice are we able to become worthy to enter into his holy temple. I was reading in Jacob in my personal study and came across Jacob 4:7, " Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things." It really is through his grace, his enabling power, that we're able to overcome our weaknesses and be worthy to enter his presence, after we've done all we can do to live and follow his gospel. There was a ward trip the other week, and now this week the youth are heading to the temple. Basically, everything around me is about the temple, so I'm just excited to go back again! But after being at the temple for a little while, the driver took us back to the airport. We ended up being at the airport forever though, because our flight kept getting delayed. We didn't land in Bacolod until after 10 that night. It was an exhausting trip, but it was fun to be reunited with our batch for a day. There's a total of 38 of us going home in December! 

The rest of the week went well. With ward conference, the members were very supportive, and some actually went and did some visiting and home teaching, inviting less actives to church and you could see the difference at church yesterday. One thing that I always admire of you and dad is your diligence to fulfill that calling. There's really nothing that compares to a friend visiting you not just out of obligation, but because you love them. I feel like we might not always see the difference or effect, but I know it blesses them more than we might realize. We even received a couple referrals from members this past week which is always a blessing. 

This week being Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for my family, and I'm also grateful to have spent the past year serving my Father in Heaven. There's nothing that has brought me more joy than this experience. It's been hard, but I'll be forever be grateful for the things I've learned of myself, of the gospel, and of Jesus Christ. I love you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sister Fitzgerald

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 15, 2014


It's been such a busy, yet spiritually filling week. It included MLC (missionary leadership council) and mission tour with Elder and Sister Ardern, L's baptism, and celebrating Sister Oquias's birthday yesterday.

I now have officially a month left in the mission and this past week I was starting to feel it. When I was sitting in the mission home during our MLC, all I wanted to do was cry because I realized that I don't have too many more chances to hear the trainings of President Lopez. He truly is an amazing man and I'm so grateful to have him as my mission president. His love for us is so evident and you can feel it every time he speaks. One thing that he mentioned this past week was that he was called here as the president to love us and that we were called here as missionaries to love the people. He said that throughout the past two years, he's been trying to show and give that love to us, so that we may have enough love to give and show to those here in Bacolod. One thing that I've definitely learned on my mission is that love is required for those we serve and charity is one of those Chris-like attributes I've been trying to develop for the past year.

One thing that Elder Ardern mentioned was that some day each of us will have to get an accounting of our stewardship here on earth. He said that this chapter in our life will be glowing from our mission and how our goal is now to help make each chapter after this glow as well. He also mentioned how our first responsibility as a teacher of the gospel is to prepare spiritually. I'll be forever grateful for the testimony I have gained and things that I have learned and experienced here on the mission. This past week I was reading in Mosiah and I came across Mosiah 5:2: "And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent,which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." I feel like I have experienced that mighty change in my heart. I have seen in myself, members, and in my recent converts the process of conversion. I've learned that true conversions is more than just a knowledge of the gospel principles and it implies more than just a testimony. It means to live and act upon what we believe. And through doing that, we create a firmly rooted testimony and conviction of the church and gospel of Jesus Christ. Yesterday, Sister Oquias and I both gave talks in sacrament meeting. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my mission and on myself as well. I'm grateful for the gospel in my life and the comfort and hope that knowledge gives to me. 

On Saturday we had the baptism of L. She's 14 and her mother passed away last February. She's the oldest of five kids and basically takes care of them all. She's so strong and her baptism was so beautiful. She came out of the water crying. I hope she remembers what she felt on that day and I hope that joy and peace will help carry her through her future. The youth are so strong in this ward. This week in their seminary class it is  missionary week. They have to live like a missionary and wear a "future missionary badge" all day, even in school. They were all so excited to put it on yesterday at church. They're all going to be amazing missionaries someday!

I love you all! Tomorrow my batch is flying to Manila for our exit clearance fingerprinting. They said we'll probably be able to go through a temple session before flying home that night... I hope so!

Sister Fitzgerald
Zone Training Meeting last week!

Celebrating the 21st birthday of Sister Oquias yesterday! It was extra special because some of her family lives here in Pulupandan. Her dad grew up here, so some of her aunts and uncles live here and even her grandma.

Last last week it was all soul's day when we proselyted in the cemetery. We were able to visit the grave of Sister Oquias's grandpa and relative.

Sister Char, Sister Oquias, and myself.

Pulupandan (Her area)

 One of my last days in Santa Fe with the Salmorin and Suriaga families! 
Celebrating one of their sons birthdays

FHE with the Flores family... they have ten kids

Bishop and Sister Ollier at dinner last night. They have their house decorated for Christmas and it felt like home.

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 8, 2014

Good morning!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 1, 2014

Mayung Aga!

It's been a pretty eventful week! Last Thursday I got transferred to my new and last area in Pulupundan 2nd Ward. I'm now officially out of the city after eight months! My new companion is Sister Oquias, probably one of the prettiest Philippinos in the mission. But our area is fun, it's right by the ocean! Our house is huge, but it's good. It's just the two of us, but it's pretty much ordinary for missionary housing. I'm back to bucket showers, but that's not unusual.  Our ward is definitely smaller than Santa Fe, but the members are strong and our bishopric is really supportive. The past couple of days, all of the young women have been working with us because it's been their semester break, and they're all so precious. Half of them are recent converts, but they are so strong already. The ward is heading off to the temple this week, so I can't help but be jealous of them.

But exciting news is that I can now view my mission as "complete" because I got food poisoning for the first time. I've been here so long without an issue. I came to the conclusion that my body is immune to the food here in the Philippines but then inevitable it happened this past week, especially considering we were fed nine days in a row by members. Thursday morning I woke up throwing up, and it lasted all day, but by Friday I was fine. And now, I'm healthy as ever... well as healthy as you can be after living in a foreign country for over a year :)

I loved the package! Thanks so much!  Sister Vaitohi and I downed the peanut m&ms.... we opened one and finished it  and then a couple of days later we told ourselves we wouldn't open the second one and we would just give it away.... by the end of the night they were open and by the afternoon of the next day, it was gone too haha. but luckily, we were able to give away a couple of other things so we wouldn't get too fat from all of it. 
Last night we were able to watch the Philippines Special Broadcast. Elder Ardern and Elder Oaks spoke and they mentioned about what is needed to help the church be truly established in the Philippines. But something they mentioned is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children in the home. And the importance of the father to exercise his priesthood within the family. And then even in our ward fast and testimony meeting as well, there were several members that mentioned that they went on missions because they want their kids to go on missions. Basically, all day yesterday I was just filled with so much gratitude because of how you raised us in the gospel. You not only taught us, but you showed us how to live the gospel and because of that, I am forever grateful. 

Next week we have mission tour with Elder Ardern!

Sister Fitzgerald