Saturday, February 21, 2015

I'm Ba-ack!!!

My nearest & dearest, 

Guess who's back... Back again! Well I'm home and despite the freezing temperatures, I'm glad to be here! Seeing my family in the Philippines and being able to share with them a taste of what I've been doing for the last 18 months was amazing and something I will never forget. 

Since I've been home I have had many opportunities to reflect on my mission and the impact it has had on my life. I can honestly say that the last 18 months have effected every single aspect of my life. I can't imagine where I would be or what I would be doing if I hadn't served my mission. 

My mission and all of my experiences have filled a hole in my heart that I didn't know I had. It has helped me see past myself and open up to a whole new culture. 

I am so thankful for your support these last 18 months. I know I couldn't have done it without you!!

I am excited to report on my mission in sacrament meeting this Sunday February 22. I hope to see you all there!! 

With nothing but love,

My family and I spent six days visiting the different areas of my mission and the families I worked with there. Below are just a few pictures of the hundreds that were taken but you can get a feel for the country and the people that I love and miss so much.
First hug!


Pilar Branch

This was our first time teaching this sweet nanay!
Marlon always gave us rides in Orioni!

I love this family....

and this family!

Brother Wright finally let me drive his trike!  (Just kiddin'!)

I got all my sisters with me!

Sweet kids!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Final Countdown.....

A famous poet once said, "if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, would you take it or let it slip." :)

So maybe Eminem isn't the best character to quote in my last letter as a missionary but I really love that line. I think is applicable to all of us in our various stages of life and has been on my mind lately as my time as a full-time missionary here winds down. 

It has definitely been a time of reflection for me. As I prepare to go home, I can't help but think about all of the experiences I've had here. I remember the spirit I have felt when teaching people about God's love for them. I remember the excitment when an investigator finally came to church. I remember the joy as I helped others come unto Christ through the waters of baptism. And I remember being really, REALLY tired! In Doctrine and Covenants 123:12-13 we read why missionaries are sooo dang tired! 

"12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties,and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

 13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—"

I love this scripture because that is exactly what I have been doing for the last 18 months, striving to bring light into dark places in order to lead others to Christ. I love this work. I have seen miracles as I have given my all to the Lord. I am going to continue to give it my all until the last day! I am so grateful that I have spent the last year and a half wearing out my life in bringing others to this Gospel.

I know that this is Christ's true church here on the Earth. I know that He is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God to restore the fullness of the Gospel. I know that we are led and directed by a living prophet with authority from God. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I love it and read it everyday.

I am indebted eternally to Christ for all He has done for me. I am grateful to pay a tiny piece back to Him through my service as a full time missionary. Now I will continue to be a life time missionary!

I love you all and will see you SOON!!
-Sister Miller

I had a little something made for Sister Hart to remember me by!

She obviously loves it!!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Service Fun!

This week we were able to have a zone service project in a barangay (neighborhood) in my area. We were able to see how the Lord used us to serve His children here in the Philippines! 

The opportunity came when we were teaching a lesson and a man walked up and sat down to listen to us. Now that doesn't normally just happen, so we were excited at the opportunity to have a new investigator that showed true interest in our message and wasn't just listening to us to be nice. When we finished the lesson we set up a return appointment and the man told us that he was the barangay captain. It's basically the mayor of the area. We had been looking for service projects to do as a zone of missionaries so we asked him if there were any needs that we could help meet in his barangay. It just so happened that they were having a service project as a barangay council that very Saturday. The whole zone came, a total of 22 missionaries, and helped clean up the streets by pulling weeds and other general landscaping. Through a hard days work we were able to build relationships with all that were involved. We all had a good time and were able to schedule appointments to go and teach the barangay officials and their families. 

It felt good to be able to give of ourselves in order to help meet the needs of others. We could feel our love and the Saviors love for the people amongst whom we served. I have a strong testimony that service softens hearts and opens doors for missionary work. Not only were we able to find new people to teach, but the barangay captain was so touched that he came to church the next day to see what we taught and why the missionaries were so ready and willing to give service to complete strangers. In Mosiah 2:17 we read, "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." As we serve others we are truly serving our Father in Heaven. We are repaying just a slight part of all He has done for us.

Not only were others helped through our service, but we benefited as well. During a General Conference, Derek A. Cuthbert said, "Service changes people. It refines, purifies, gives a finer perspective, and brings out the best in each one of us. It gets us looking outward instead of inward. It prompts us to consider others’ needs ahead of our own. Righteous service is the expression of true charity, such as the Savior showed." I love giving service because as Brother Cuthbert said, all who involved are blessed!

That is something that I love about being a missionary. We are literally called to serve. We serve in the sense of sharing the Gospel. We serve others through small deeds everyday. And we serve our Heavenly Father by helping His children here on Earth. I love the feeling of love that comes from serving others. I am firm in my dedication to serve, even when I take my missionary name tag off. I know that is what God wants for me. 

I know that service is how we show our love for the Lord. I am so thankful for this church and all the service that is done here. I know that this is Christ's church here on Earth as restored through Joseph Smith. I know that we are led by a living prophet, Thomas S Monson. I love being a missionary and focusing all my time and efforts to help progress the Kingdom of God here in the Philippines!

I love you all so much!
-Sister Miller

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tender Mercies!

This week I did something that I had never done, nor will I ever do again in the future! Here in the Philippines, anything but rice is a side dish so no matter where you are, it's pretty safe to say there is a rice field somewhere nearby. We have a family of investigators who live right smackdab in the middle of a HUGE rice field. Yesterday we decided to go to their house before church started so that we could all go together. Now I myself like to dress up a little for church, and this particular day was no different. Before leaving the house I thought, 'gee, maybe I should change.' I decided not too. So there I was, hiking into a rice field in my high-waisted pencil skirt and heels!! Call me crazy, because I sure felt like a loon! Now when you're walking in a rice field, there's no nice paved path. Its a tiny-maybe 8 inches wide-path that falls down 3 feet into muddy waters and rice stocks on either side. Needless to say I took my time, step by step! When we finally got to the home of our investigators, no one answered the door! We eventually spotted the mom around back washing clothes. The dad had gone off to work, the kids were asleep, and the mom had to finish the laundry. They had no intention of coming to church. 

So there I was, in the middle of a rice field, dressed to impress, about to go to church empty handed... let down to say the least! We decided to stop by a less-active family's home to see if they were coming to church that morning. They said they would meet us there. That usually means no. With our heads hung low we made our way to church, already knowing that our chances of having any investigators at church were slim to none.  When we got to the building 30 minutes before the meeting started, there were maybe 10 people there -- no investigators, no less-actives. We went through that whole ordeal for nothing, I thought, but that's when something amazing happened!

I've always been told that it's only after you have done all that you can do that the Lord steps in and does the rest. If walking into a rice field, on an unsteady path, during a hot Philippine morning wearing heels wasn't all I could have done, I don't know what is! On Sunday, we had 11 less-actives at church and 3 investigators. To say that it was an unexpected tender mercy would be an understatement! As our less-actives and investigators walked in, I felt nothing but happiness and gratitude to my Father in Heaven. 

David A Bednar said, "The tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them." I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who is constantly watching over us and is ready and willing to do His part as we put our faith in him and do ours.

“But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1:20).

I love you all,
-Sister Miller

On New Year's Eve, we hung out, ate LOTS of food, and videokied with these fun folks!

Happy New Year!

Going after the one lost sheep!

The kids of a recently reactivated family -- so fun!!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Completing Families!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

What an amazing week!! Here in the Peens, Christmas consists of a lot of sweet spaghetti, people handing out money to children, and lots of lights and decorations!! The sisters here celebrated by singing carols on vidokie at the District President's house! It was awesome!! I sang 'I'll be Home for Christmas' with an emphasis on "if only in my dreams"!! :)

Also had a blast celebrating my birthday. The people here are so nice! The Relief Society had an activity where the made me my favorite Filipino food and the District President bought us all dinner and a birthday cake!! To top off an awesome day, I had a baptism!

These sweet sisters are making some of my favorite Filipino foods!

Birthday cake....YUM!!!!
Something I have learned out here as I 'grew old' in the mission is that the gospel thrives in the family unit. Bruce R McConkie said, "Salvation is a family affair." That is so true! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is centered on strengthening families not only here on earth but into the eternities! And it is soooo much easier to live the gospel standards with the support of your family! I have seen countless numbers of people who stop going to church or fall back into temptations because of either lack of support or pressure from family members. I've learned that it's easy to convert a single member of a family but Heavenly Father wants all of His children to come unto Him. It's hard work to find and baptize a whole family but it's really what is best for the individuals. We pray everyday to be led to a family that is ready to accept the gospel. So far we've been struggling but I know that as we continue to show Heavenly Father our faith and trust in Him, He will provide. 

We have been working lately on completing families as well. This month we reactivated a family who hasn't been to church in years! The whole family is now active again and we were able to baptize the youngest member of the family, Jana. I have such a strong testimony that families can be together forever. I know that it is our Father in Heaven's plan for us to come to earth, learn, grow, and return to Him, as a family!!

A baptism on my birthday is the best gift EVER!

This is a typical baptismal font in the Philippines!

I know that this is the only way to return to Him. I am so thankful for my family and for the opportunity to help strengthen families here in the Peens!! 

-Sister Miller

Here is my Christmas tree FULL of Christmas wishes from all of you....
Thank you so much!  It is so beautiful and means so much!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Sister Cervantes and I having some fun with the holiday decorations in our city center.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Early Christmas Present!

Christmas came early this year!  We were able to talk with Marissa via Google Hangouts last night.  Marissa's mission president allows the missionaries to call home on their P-day rather than Christmas day because all of the internet cafes are closed for the holiday.

This year, we were spread out all over the country and world!  Meagan was in Qatar and Mallorie was in Wyoming but we were all able to join the session and had a great time visiting with Marissa.  She has only five weeks left on her mission.  We will be flying to the Philippines to pick her up and spend some time seeing the various areas where she served and meeting her "peeps!"  We are so excited for that!

Marissa looks so happy!
(It was the middle of the night for Meg!)

Even Macy got to chat with Marissa!
We are so proud of Marissa and her dedication to the Savior and the people of the Philippines.  We have been blessed as a family because of her great service and I know that she had grown and learned so much during her time in the mission field.  Those things will continue to bless her throughout her entire life!

I want to extend a special thanks to all of you who have written to Marissa or sent her packages and called or emailed me when you heard about typhoons just to check up on her.  She has felt your love and support and I know it has meant so much to her...and me!

Merry Christmas...........Maria

Monday, December 15, 2014


This week we got to go to Manila! All of the foreign missionaries going home in January had to go to Immigration to get fingerprinted for our exit visas. While we were in Manila we were able to go through the temple!! It was so amazing!!

We started out sleeping at the mission home on Thursday night. We didn't really get a chance to sleep because we were taken to the bus station at 2 o'clock in the morning where we hopped on a looooong 4 hour bus ride to Manila. 
Sister Ete-aki, Elder Powell and me on that looooooong bus ride.....
feeling a little goofy!
There a van was waiting to take us to the immigration office. Then it was a grueling 6 hour wait before we all got finished with our paperwork. We were going to go to Taco Bell to eat but it was on the opposite side of town from the temple and we were running out of time so we couldn't. Luckily we passed a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant called Hermano's and stopped. IT WAS SOOO GOOD!! In all honesty, it was better than Chipotle!!  

I felt so close to home!
 We were able to get a session in at the temple before we headed back to Olongapo. It was perfect! It's been so long since I've been to the temple and it was much needed! The Spirit was so strong there and it was great motivation to finish my mission strong and do all I can to make the Lord proud of my service.

The beautiful Manila temple. I can't wait to be here with my family in six weeks!
My batch sisters: Sister Makihele, Sister Garrett, and Sister Ete-aki.
We all started in the MTC together and will be released together.
I am so happy here in the Philippines doing the Lord's work!! This week was kind of a wake up call that I only have six weeks left here. I am going to cherish every moment and not waste a second! I know that all good things have to come to an end so I'm going to go out with a bang! I promised myself that I will work hard everyday of my last transfer and that I won't let anything distract me from doing what I am meant to do here!  

I love you all and am grateful for all the support I have received from each of you!

-Sister Miller

Here is my Christmas tree as of today...only ten days til Christmas!
Opening a new envelope is the first thing I do everyday and it makes me feel SO loved!
THANK YOU ALL for your warm wishes and holiday greetings.