Sunday, September 29, 2013

Never Fear...They Have Toilet Paper Here!

Let me start off by telling you all that I am okay! The typhoon didn't have an effect on my apartment because we are so high up in the mountains. Our teaching area, on the other hand, was destroyed! The water engulfed and carried away homes. In the very heart of our area, the water was up to 15-20 feet! We have been doing service all the time. We can't really teach anyone because they are all cleaning what is left of their homes and belongings. It was so sad to walk through the area and just see everyone's lives in total shreds. People have just thrown all of their belongings out in the street for trash pick up. I can't imagine going through something like that and it blows my mind how blessed we were to be safe and bored in our apartment while so many people were losing everything. 

I have come to realize that I haven't told you much about the Philippines, or the "Peens" as I like to refer to them. I'm still trying to figure out this whole read and reply to all my email in 30 minutes thing so this will have to be quick!

First and foremost... they have toilet paper here!! My area is more urban-ish so I guess toilet paper is more common. We always have toilet paper in our apartment and we don't really go to the bathroom anywhere else. There is this little bum-sprayer as I have so graciously named it. It is basically like one of those sprayers that are sometimes on kitchen sinks. It's really powerful and it's purpose is to get anything and everything off after you take care of your bathroom business. One morning my companion used it while she was wearing yoga pants and she had the biggest wet spot on her bum. I was cracking up because I then knew what was taking her so long in the bathroom! I have used it once but prefer good ol' TP although I have to admit its quite refreshing!

We get around on jeepneys and trikes here. A jeepney is like a bus. Inside are two long benches along either side where people sit facing each other. They pack so many people inside, it's insane in the membrane!! Rarely will I have room to move my elbows without hitting the person next to me. People just pass their money up to pay and if there is change, the driver just passes it back to the closest person who passes it down until it gets back to you. Jeepneys are an awesome place to talk to people because they have to listen to you until their stop. It's great! It's literally a captive audience! I usually only talk to people about the church if there isn't any music playing but it's been a goal of mine to talk to more strangers so the jeepneys will be a great place to start! We only ride the jeepneys once or twice a day to get from our apartment to our teaching area. Whenever we aren't walking we take trikes. Trikes are like cabs. They take you right where you need to go but cost more than the jeepneys. A trike consists of a motorcycle and a large, covered sidecar with a small bench inside. They fit two people comfortably and three people uncomfortably. If there are four of us, someone has to ride on the back of the motorcycle. They're pretty fun and a fast way of getting where we need to go but they try to rip us off because I'm white! My companion is American, too, but she is Tongan so they don't see her as a big dollar sign walking around. Once a driver tried to charge us 75 pesos for a ride that is normally 20-25 pesos! We eventually talked him down, but as we were walking away my companion said, "Sister you need to get a tan!!" It's true! I look so pale here!! And I'm always a hot mess!! I mean I've always been somewhat of a mess, but here its amplified times 1,000!! I don't really care though, and the people don't mind, or are just too polite to say anything. Either way I just throw my hair up and go to work!

I love missionary work! I had my fist baptism yesterday and it was amazing! Her name is Sister Z and she is 9 years old. I'm so glad that I was able to build a relationship with her and teach her before she was baptized. It would have been cool to have had a baptism my first week but I think this one meant a lot more to me than someone I barely knew would. I could feel the Spirit so strongly during her baptism and she was so happy! She was smiling the whole time and I really felt like she knew the importance of her baptism and the affect it would have on her life. We have eight other investigators right now so I'll keep you updated on their progress..

I know that this work it true and I know we are making difference in peoples lives. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and wouldn't be anywhere else.

I love you all!!
Sister Miller

President Querido posted the following pictures taken on Sept. 27, 2013, with the caption:
"One of the most beautiful museums in the country was damaged by the recent flooding in Olongapo City. Missionaries conducted CSP to restore a little bit of the beauty to the place."

Notice their brooms 
Scooping sludge

Still smiling
Lunch break

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What I Love About Serving in the Philippines....

Hello Po!!

Okay, so sorry if my last letter seemed to end abruptly but I thought I had 15 more minutes and I didn't! Also sorry I wasn't able to email yesterday but as you may or may not know there was a huge typhoon here! 

This email is going to have to be short because I don't have a full 30 minutes like I normally do!

But let me just tell you some reasons I know I'm meant to be serving in the Philippines! (And these are in no particular order):

Crocs, Stocks, & Flops!! Those, as you all should know, are my favorite shoes to wear. Add in some cool socks and I'm one happy camper. While it may be too hot to wear socks here, all we ever wear are crocs, stocks, or flops! It's like footwear heaven!!

Music! So its totally normal to celebrate Christmas here from September to January!! And you know what that means... a very jolly Sister Miller!! Also on all of the jeepneys (like a bus) they blast 80's and early 90's rap music! I keep hoping to hear some Jurassic 5 or Salt n Pepa but no luck yet! 

The People! Everyone here is so loving and kind....especially to me because I'm white!! It's funny because when we ride around in trikes (like a motorcycle with a side car we sit in) everyone just stares at me as we fly by. Sometimes I pretend I'm in a parade and wave and smile at the people. The best part is they all wave and smile right back! 

Service! So with Typhoon Usagi hitting yesterday, all the missionaries went out and did service all day today. I helped clean up debris and clean up members homes. Our apartment was safe because we live pretty high up, but our teaching area was flooded really badly. We stayed in all day but members were texting us telling us the water was 8 feet in some areas!! I also love that we get to perform service on a day to day basis. I love loving the people and serving them!!

The Spirit! I know this isn't a Philippines specific one but I love always feeling the Holy Ghost with me. I know that without the Spirit that the people here wouldn't understand a thing that comes out of my mouth. Although my Tagalog is improving, I know that it is truly the Spirit that is doing the teaching.

I didn't know I would have the opportunity to email tonight so I don't have my camera stuff so next week you will get 3x the pictures!!! Look forward to that :)

Also I am going to try a new method of replying to emails where I print them out and then write my responses throughout the week. So you WILL get a response, it just may be a week or so before you get it.

I love you all and thank you for all the support I have received!
Sister Miller

Ready to serve!
Dirty but happy!!!

After a job well done!

President Querido posted this pic of the missionaries enjoying
pizza after their community service activity today.

Monday, September 23, 2013

No Letter from Sister Miller Yesterday :-(

Hello All!

Well, Marissa was looking for excitement and adventure on her mission and she got both this weekend!  The largest typhoon of the year hit the Philippines on Saturday and torrential rains continued through Monday. We did not receive a letter from Marissa yesterday due to flooding and power outages caused by Typhoon Usagi--see Fox News article below.  Marissa is serving in Santa Rita which is about 28 miles from Subic, the most severely affected area according to the article.

Marissa's mission president posted on Facebook yesterday that he had contacted all of the missionaries and everyone was safe.  He posted again today saying that missionaries would be encouraged to email tomorrow after their district meetings and I am very interested to read about Marissa's experience.  I am so grateful for the technology that allows President Querido to communicate with the families of his missionaries in such a timely manner.  Not so many years ago, families would have waited anxiously for days to receive communication from their missionaries that all was well.  Chris mentioned that 30+ years ago when he was on his mission, his family probably would not have even known about a typhoon on the other side of the world! true!  I guess technology can be a blessing and a curse!

While I am go glad that Marissa and all of the other missionaries are safe, my heart goes out to the Filippino people who have lost everything during this storm....many had so little to begin with.  I know the missionaries will have many service opportunities in Usagi's aftermath and hope that the people will feel the love of their Savior through the service that will be rendered so willingly.  Be so grateful for your many blessings and keep these sweet, humble people in your prayers!

President Querido also posted several pictures that I have included below the news article.

Monsoon rains worsened by Typhoon Usagi pounded the Philippines for the third day on Monday, causing floods and landslides that left six people dead and others stranded on rooftops, officials said.
The most severely affected area was the town of Subic, about 80 kilometres (51 miles) northwest of Manila. Heavy rains there caused rain-soaked soil to cascade down, killing six people, said town mayor Jay Khonghun.
"We've been experiencing very heavy rain. We are now isolated. I can confirm there are two landslide incidents here. Six people were so far killed," Khonghun told AFP.
"The flood water is chest-deep in many areas, and the rain is pounding and the water keeps on rising," he said.
It is not clear how many people have been left stranded in the town of 160,000, but one resident reported that "many" people were waiting on rooftops for rescuers.
Government employee Cristina Humbert, 35, said the ground floor of her two-storey home had been flooded but she managed to evacuate her 63-year-old mother to higher ground.
"Many are on the rooftops, waiting for help. They are marooned, and are getting hungry and cold. We have no power, no electricity," she told AFP.
Khonghun said four rivers that pass through Subic were heavily silted and had overflowed, causing the floods.
He called on the national government to come to the town's aid.
"We are appealing for rescuers, equipment, diggers, we need relief goods. We need help from the national government, please send in inflatable boats," he said.
Local authorities sent rubber boats and fire trucks to pick up residents but there were not enough to cope, Khonghun added.
Classes were called off throughout the Philippine capital and surrounding areas due to flooding that reached more than five feet (1.5 metres) in some places, said Myrna Puzon, desk officer of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
"It is reaching the second floor of houses. Some people have taken refuge on their rooftops," Puzon said.
In the city Olongapo, neighbouring Subic, local officials put up ropes across flooded streets so people could hold on to them to keep from being swept away by strong currents, eyewitnesses said.
People there carried their shivering children as they waded through the floodwaters amid submerged cars, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Typhoon Usagi passed the northern Philippines this weekend and has moved away from the country but it continues to exacerbate monsoon rains.

 Sept. 22, 2013 -- Flooding in the fields near Olongapo City

 Flooding at the market

Sept. 23, 2013 -- The APs and office elders cleaned the muddy driveway of the mission office and home due to the worst flooding ever in Olongapo.

I think they need bigger buckets!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Here!!!!

Helllllllllllllooooooo from the Philippines!!! 

It seems so weird to say that!! This week has been so crazy! I can't believe that just last SUNDAY I was hanging out in Utah eating normal, American food and complaining about how cold it was in the classroom. Oh, how I long for that seat right by the A/C vent but I wouldn't trade being in the Philippines for anything!! 

We left the MTC right after church on Sunday. It was a mad dash to get all of my stuff from my room to the travel office and say all my goodbyes! I was running on only 3 or 4 hours of sleep because, just like the crazy college student I am, I waited until the last minute to pack. The whole zone came and watched us leave which was awesome! It was so weird to leave the MTC and go into the real world after being cooped up inside for 6 weeks! 

We flew from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Manila and then had a 4-hour bumpy bus ride to Olongapo where the mission home is. All of the traveling went well except for in LA. We were all calling our families and getting dinner, thinking we had tons of time. When it came to be about 30 or 45 minutes before our flight, I became a little nervous because our gate number still wasn't up on the departure board. Being the savvy traveler that I am, I decided to go ask someone. Despite receiving many groans from my travel group, we all took our stuff and went to find someone to ask. Well, let me tell you, it's a darn good thing we asked because not only were we in the wrong terminal but we were also in the wrong BUILDING!!! Needless to say, we ran to the correct building, printed our boarding passes, flew through security, and made it to our correct area with minutes to spare. We were out of breath, but we were there!! 

The flight to Hong Kong was soooo long! I slept for most of it but was uncomfortable the whole 14 hours. When we got to Hong Kong, the sissies in our travel group ate at McDonald's for breakfast but I, being among the brave, ate a traditional Hong Kong breakfast of ramen noodles with beef, "scrambled eggs", a toasted roll, and herbal tea. It was pretty good! From Hong Kong it was just a hop and a skip and we were in Manila.

Once in Manila, we grouped on the sidewalk and looked for a man holding a sign that said, "The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints". This man never came! We waited for three hours and finally someone came and told us that they thought we were coming in at 11 o'clock pm instead of am. Whoops!! So we got placed on a bus and off we went. That night we slept at the mission home and then after some training the next day we were off to our assigned areas!!!

I am in the Santa Rita 2 area in the Olongapo zone and my companion is Sister Leahkehe from Utah.  I love the people here already and can't wait until I can really communicate with them to tell them how much I love them and this gospel!

You can write to me at the mission home and since we are so close, I won't even have to wait for a zone conference to get my mail!  Please see my new address below and write often cuz you know how much I love those letters!!!

I love you all and appreciate all your love and support!
-Sister Miller

Sister Marissa Noelle Miller
Philippines Olongapo Mission
Km. 140 National Highway
Mangan -Vaca, Subic
2209 Zambales

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Welcome to the Philippines Olongapo Mission


Philippines Olongapo Mission
Km. 140 National Highway, Mangan-Vaca
2209, Subic, Zambales

12 September 2013

Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Mark Miller 
10420 S Millbrook lane
Olathe, KS 66061
United States

Dear Brother and Sister Miller;

We were delighted with the safe arrival of your daughter, Sister Marissa Noelle Miller here in the Olongapo Mission. She is excited about her mission and enthusiastic about entering the Lord's service in this area.  She has had an orientation session and is now serving in her first assignment with her companion.

Sister Miller  has been assigned to Santa Rita 2 Area, Morong District in the Olongapo Zone. Her companion is Sister Melissa LeeShenell Leakehe.  The enclosed map will help you to locate this area and enable you to follow each future transfer.

We urge you to write your daughter each week.  Please include encouraging news of family events and achievements, spiritual experiences and other matters which will bring joy and deeper commitment.  Family problems or other matters which she does not need to know can only bring worry or concern. In emergency cases or special situations you can send a letter to me and I will inform the missionary.

All mail should be sent to the address listed above.  Packages sent through the Postal Service should be sent to the same address. Pouch is available in the United States.  If you need address for pouch or how to do it, please contact me by email. Please do not use Fed Ex or any other mail service because it is expensive to receive the packages.  Be aware that packages sent containing foodstuffs will be attacked by rodents during shipping.  Pack accordingly.  Enclosing your package completely with tape is recommended.

This is a wonderful mission and your daughter is in for one of the greatest experiences of her life.  With your support and encouragement she will mature and progress beyond your expectations. She will develop a great love for her fellow missionaries as they strive to teach a better way of life, and the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

We appreciate the opportunity to work with your daughter.  We assure you that we will do all we can do to see that she has a fulfilling mission.  Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you or your daughter.  We love your missionary and want this mission to be a great experience for your entire family.

May the Lord's blessings be with you.

PRBQ signature
Roberto Bayobo Querido
Philippines Olongapo Mission                                                    
Mission President

Marissa made it!!! (Third row, fifth from the right) 
This is the newest group of missionaries to arrive in the Philippines Olongapo Mission.
Don't they look awesome!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

This is It! We are Bound for the Philippines TOMORROW!!!

Kamasta Friends and Family!

Alright...... I am officially leaving the Missionary Training Center in 26 hours 34 minutes and 24 seconds!! I am so excited!! I've been packing all day and trying to figure out how to make everything fit! 

President and Sister Anderson
It has definitely been a week of goodbyes. Since we are leaving RIGHT after sacrament meeting tomorrow, we took pictures with the Branch President, President Anderson, and his wife last week. It was weird because it didn't feel like we were leaving anytime soon. But I was glad we were able to get pictures with them because Sister Anderson is literally the craziest lady I know which just makes me love to talk to her. She says the darnedest things that make me bust a gut laughing for days! (Remember the temple parsley story?  That was her!)

That night for Sunday devotional, the previous president of the Philippines MTC was the speaker. He and his wife literally stood up and spoke about how awesome the Philippines is and how it's basically just the greatest place in the world. If I wasn't already going to the Philippines on my mission, I would have been so jealous because of all the good things they were saying!! My district went up and talked to them after the devotional and they were so nice! We took a picture together but it is on another sister's camera so I will have to send it later. Then I saw President and Sister Nally (president of the Provo MTC) and was finally able to tell them that her brother is my stake president in Kansas. Sister Nally wanted to get a picture of us together to send to President Priday so maybe he will forward it on to you.

Monday was normal but Tuesday night's devotional was superb!! Elder Evans of the Seventy and his wife came to speak to us. This guy has the coolest job. He just gets to hang out with all the Apostles all day!! He told us of a time when Elder Holland and the rest of the Twelve were having a gospel discussion and he was there just adding his input. That's SO awesome!! Anyway, his whole talk was centered around Jacob 5. He made so many good points and it was really enlightening. One of the things that stuck with me most was when he drew a parallel between the last time the servant prunes the vineyard and today. He told how all of the other times the servant asked for more time, but for the last time he asked for more servants. He related this to when President Monson lowered the missionary age and called for more missionaries. I wrote 'October 6, 2012' in my scriptures next to verse 61 since that was when President Monson made the announcement. It really made me think about how I need to "labor diligently with all [my] might."

The rest of the week went by super fast!! I can't believe I am leaving TOMORROW!!!! I read some emails today from the elders that left for the Philippines last week and they are loving it! I am so excited to go out and spread the gospel to the Filipino people! I know this is Heavenly Father's work and that He is always there supporting me! Thanks to all of you who support me with letters, emails, and packages.

I love you all!! 

Sister Miller
This is our district with one of our teachers, Brother  Caulder.