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.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Be Preparrrrrrred!!!" -- The Lion King

Helllllo family and friends!! 

I learned something interesting this week. Did you know that “the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world with frequent exposures to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, flooding, and landslides”? (National Disaster Coordinating Council website) 

Well this week there is a super typhoon in the Philippines. We found out about it on Thursday and it has been on and off havoc since then. There have been basically non-stop texts coming from the assistants to the Mission President giving us directions about what we need to do to be ready. We are evacuating later tonight to get to "safer ground". Not to worry though, we are being taken care of and I'm positive that everything will be okay.

In all the chaos I have actually learned a lot! We read in the scriptures, "Watch, therefore, that ye may be ready" (D&C 50:46) I am so thankful that we are being prepared for this storm. I think it is a perfect parallel for life in general and the role missionary work plays. We are all preparing for the storms of life. As we watch, as the scriptures direct, I know that we will be ready. Ready for any challenges we may face. Ready for life's problems. Ready to return to our Father in Heaven. As missionaries, it's our job to raise the warning voice and help others see the path or know the things which they must do in order to be ready or to obtain their exhalation. No matter where we are in life, there is always more preparation to be taken. I know that as we follow the teachings of Christ and are obedient, we will be ready. We can 'watch' through the little things we should do everyday, especially prayer and scripture study. I know that as we are being prepared through the little things, when the storm comes we will be saved.

I love this gospel and the knowledge it gives me. I can't wait to return to my loving Heavenly Father, embrace Him in a hug, and say 'I did my best!' I know that He will take care of the rest.

I love you all!
-Sister Miller
The classic after FHE picture. When we are playing games and you mess up, you get a mark of lipstick on your face. We went straight home after this but didn't wash off our faces until we got there. The trike driver was cracking up and kept saying how great we looked, then he only charged us half of the normal rate. I told Sister Cagata that we should wear lipstick on our faces everyday to save on travel expenses... :)

This is what kids do after the rice is harvested. They find bamboo sticks and play baseball!! I joined in the game, channeled my inner Royals player, and hit a home run! All the kids thought it was hilarious to see me running the bases in my skirt! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tender Mercies

This week I have realized a huge miracle in my mission.  In the Book of Mormon, we read the story of Nephi and his family as they journey in the wilderness.  Throughout their rough journey, they saw many mercies of the Lord come to pass.  One in particular occurs in 1Nephi 17.  Before my mission, I would read this chapter and think little of it.  Now that I have experienced a certain tender mercy of the Lord in my life, I appreciate Nephi's experience so much more.  In verse 12, we read the Lord's words saying, "I will make thy food become sweet." BAM! That's it!

Let me take you back to my first week here in the Philippines. Now anyone who knows me knows that I often rave about how delicious food is in Kansas. It's the best! So I found myself eating a plate full of rice (yuck!) with fried corned beef (yuck!) with ketchup they make from bananas (I'll admit the ketchup was alright). Is this how I was going to be eating for the next year and a half?  I was going to starve!!! Then I was introduced to real Filipino food.  One word...YUCK!!! I honestly disliked almost every meal we ate.  I remember one meal in particular.  We were at a member's house and they made sinigang.  This is a very sour soup with vegetables and a little bit of meat.  I distinctly remember nearly choking down the soup so as not to offend my hosts. It's safe to say that, for the first one third of my mission, I lived on candy bars and chips. Eventually I found things that I could cook that were semi-American. Until about a week ago, I could honestly say that I was not a fan of Filipino food! 

Then something miraculous happened.  My companion, Sister Cagata, made sinigang!  I thought to myself, "Oh great....I'm going to be hungry all day now."  As we sat down to eat, I took only a little bit of the soup, remembering my past experience. I took one spoonful and slowly brought it to my lips.  I took a sip.  "What? This is delicious!," I thought to myself.  Maybe it was just a fluke so I took one more bite.  It was so good! This week I have been trying everything again and I love it all! As big or as small as this may seem to you, it is truly a miracle and a tender mercy of the Lord in my life.  I know that He knows us and is always watching out for us. Whether it be our safety (or just our tastebuds!) He only wants what is truly best for us.

I love being a missionary here in the Philippines.  I now love the food here. :-)  I know that this is the Lord's work and that we are changing the course of people's lives.  I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to spend the last 16 months focusing on others and their needs.  I would call it a sacrifice but I don't feel like I have sacrificed anything at all.  I wouldn't trade this experience for anything!

I know that this is the only true church here on Earth and that through living the teachings of the Savior, we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father.

With nothing but love,
Sister Miller

Thanksgiving dinner with the Whites!!

We have to cross a river to get to certain appointments.
Luckily, the water wasn't too high this day!

When we are really tired, we look for a ride....the Filipino way!