Thursday, February 26, 2015

Up & Down & All Around!‏

Aloha, everyone! What a crazy roller-coaster week it has been!

First of all, last P-day was basically the best. After we emailed, we went to the Keolu chapel with our district + our zone leaders and had super hilarious game of volleyball, and choke food. It was the first time we've really done something like this, at least this transfer. It was so much fun, getting to know each other better and having friendly competition. Plus, the Elders in my zone are my favorite. They take such good care of me, let me show you just what they do for me:


ANYWAYS. Besides our super awesome p-day, our week was... emotional. On Tuesday night, Sister Harris and I attended a funeral for one of our investigators named Pacencia. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August, and wasn't expected to last the month. Fortunately, she did live past that, and Sister Lasike and I were able to visit often and help her and her family with whatever they needed. I remember, last transfer, it was 3 days before her 58th birthday. Pacencia was skyping her family in the Philippines, and there were so many loving faces in the room. We had come by with 2 priesthood holders from our ward to give Pacencia a blessing, and the blessing was so beautiful. As one of the brothers was giving the blessing, I had this overwhelming sense that Pacencia would soon be passing, but of course I wasn't going to say anything. Then, after the blessing, Lasike and I had shared a little message of the gospel and how families can be together forever. Pacencia's sister, Sister Clark, then looked at me and asked if I could say a prayer for all of them. I quickly agreed, and asked if they wanted me to pray for anything particular. Pacencia's youngest son Rene` just looked at me with sad eyes, and asked to please bless that she'd live longer. My heart broke, because I knew she didn't have long. Sometimes though, we say prayers for comfort, and Heavenly Father already knows our desires. I prayed that Pacencia would have the best birthday yet, and that she'd have many more birthdays. The amazing this about the Spirit is that it brings so much peace and comfort to not only myself, but the family. 
The funeral service was beautiful, and full of so many people who loved and respected Pacencia and all she had done. I was so happy to be able to attend the services, and show my support for the Rivera family. I continue to pray for them in this time of sorrow, and we will be going to their house soon to teach them how we KNOW that we can have eternal families. That death isn't the end of this life. What a wonderful message we get to share as we serve, of how it truly isn't the end. That we will see all of our loved ones again, and they will be perfected. I am so grateful for this knowledge and message I am able to share.

After that, we went on exchanges. There had been quite a bit of contention between the other 2 sisters in our zone, so we offered to exchange for a day and try and help. I went with Sister Sateki in the YSA/Tongan branch, which I was happy to do! We had such a great day, and we took the city bus and traveled to Waimanalo! I was so thrilled when I saw that Weinberg Village was JUST ACROSS THE STREET from where we were going to be working for the day. I seriously almost cried when I walked into Weinberg and heard ''SISTER NORIEGA YOU'RE BACK SISTER NORIEGA'S BACK MOM, DAD LOOK SHE'S BACK" My heart, I was just so full of joy <3
I was able to visit with most of the Tavares family, with Mapu and Chauncey, and all of their kids. It was such an indescribable joy to see those who I had taught previously, and had an impact on them. That is just, one of the best feelings.

The rest of the day was just great. I mean, I wasn't able to say much because everyone was speaking Tongan, but that's alright! I still felt the Spirit (:

That night, there was umm... well. There was an explosion of emotions, and it was genuinely scary. I won't go into detail, but I have learned just how important communication with your companion is. There can be so many misinterpreted words, hurt feelings, unnecessary drama when there is work we have to do here. Yes, sometimes things get heated and super uncomfortable, but I would prefer that to yelling, throwing things, and storming out into the night. NOPE. No need.
Once the issues were settled, things started getting much better.

Update on Reuben: We are unable to set him with a baptism date. He isn't technically on probabation, but he still meets with a P.O. Reuben has such a positive outlook on the situation, and has such patience that I strive for. I can't say it enough, how much of an example he is to me!

Update on Mary: We will have to move her baptism date back, because she has been MIA all week. It's a tiny bit frustrating, but I know that things will work out according to the Lord's will. It's difficult sometimes, when you KNOW the person has received a personal witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, but doesn't do anything about it. Again, patience. I have definitely learned that, and continue learning about it! Haha!

We started teaching this guy named Steve, who is in his late 20's. He has gone through, in his words, Hell and back. He has been involved with drugs, violence, and a lot more that I won't share. He is extremely inactive, and is looking to get back on the straight and narrow path. He was in rehab in this intense place for about 5 months, and he left. As he was walking in Kaneohe, he passed our chapel and saw one of our ward members unlocking the door. He went up to this sweet Aunty, and he felt impressed to ask for the number of the Bishop. That's when Steve met Bishop and Sister Carlile, and he's been staying at their place ever since. He has a job now, and is coming to church regularly. He has seen so many miracles in this gospel, and is embracing church with open arms. He understands so much, and as we teach him, he has many amazing experiences to share. Steve is really a joy to work with! Sometimes it's good to teach the basics to those who have been in the gospel all their lives. It's easy to forget, honestly! It's been a good lesson for me as well.

This week is transfer week, and there have been so many changes in the Hi-Hon mission! I am staying with Sister Harris one more transfer in the Kaneohe 1st ward, which I am super happy about (:

I am so excited to start this new transfer, and be able to start fresh with a new district, with our awesome zone leaders, and do all that I can to help bring others closer to Christ! I am so grateful to be in this mission. I am learning so many things I truly couldn't learn anywhere else, or in any other way. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to bear my testimony that I know this gospel is true. I just finished the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time, and I have prayed and pondered on it, and I know it is the word of God.

As we were teaching the Baso family this last Saturday, I was able to recite The First Vision, or the first-hand experience of Joseph Smith praying and seeing God the Father and Christ. Joseph Smith was 14 years old, and in his town there was much argument about which church was the true church, and which he should join. As Joseph Smith was reading the Bible, he read from James 1:5, which says If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 
Joseph took that advice, and decided to ask God himself that question: Which church was the true church? Joseph went into a grove, and here is his experience in his own words, as he knelt and prayed:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

I would like to end my email with this: Reading the first vision, having it memorized, and teaching it, that is a special experience. The Spirit was SO STRONG. It felt like it was the first time I was testifying of the first vision, and not just reading it out loud. I know that Joseph Smith saw God and Christ, and that he did restore God's true church in this last dispensation.

I love my Heavenly Father, and I love my mission. I love you all very much, and I hope all is well on the mainland! I'll be talking to you next week!

Ofa atu,
Sister Noriega

Monday, February 16, 2015

Things are looking up!‏

Aloha, everyone!

Health update: The wound is super small now, and I'm nearly finished with treatment! I am still taking antibiotics (which literally stink so bad oh man), but will be done soon! 

This week was actually a really great week. On Tuesday, we went to Laie after our district meeting so Sister Sateki could take a test at BYU-Hawaii. While she was taking the test, we took a trip to the Temple grounds!

We were able to walk around the Temple, and go into the Visitors Center. It truly is a Temple of God, you can just feel the Spirit of the Lord so strongly. It's indescribable. 
Wednesday, Wednesday was pretty amazing. 
We have been visiting this former investigator, named Mary. She has been taught the lessons quite a few times, the ward refers to her as a "seasonal investigator". As we were going through the area book last transfer, I remember seeing Mary's name and knowing she was ready. I don't know what it was, but the Spirit just told me it was her time. 
As we've been visiting with her, she has told us of the many trials she has faced and continues to face. She has children that are severely addicted to drugs, her house has been broken into multiple times, she has no income. When we visit her, she likes to hear the "good word of the day", and naturally we study from the Book of Mormon (:
At this last lesson, we sat down with her in the yard, and she starts telling us how badly she needs a change. Sister Harris and I went into this lesson knowing we would invite her to be baptized, and when she was telling us about this change, we knew it was our cue!
We asked her how she felt about baptism, and she said she felt good about it. I started sharing my experience, from September 7, 2013, a year and a half ago when I entered the waters of baptism. As I was bearing testimony of how amazing that day was, and how much the Spirit testified that what I was doing was the best choice I could ever make, Mary started to cry. She told me how beautiful my story was, and that she wants that. She wants to be washed clean, and have a second chance. She is set for baptism on March 14th! :D That's our goal, and we will continue to pray that we can help her achieve it.

Later that day, we had our usual 5 o'clock lesson with Reuben. Reuben is SO READY for baptism. He's been working so hard. He is so willing to do whatever the Lord has asked of us, and he's come such a long way. He is seriously the best, I can't begin to describe how much love I have for this man. He works so hard, studying the scriptures and words of the prophets. Honestly, he truly teaches me more about the gospel than I have ever taught him.

We continue to visit Martha Turner, who is now in Aloha Care. She is spiritually and physically growing stronger each day! She is just like a Grandma to me, seeing her always brightens my day. We plan on re-teaching her all the lessons, and hopefully set her with a baptismal date. Her testimony of this gospel is already strong, we just need to help her take that step to baptism! Please pray for her and the Turner family, as they continue to care for her (:

Another big development, Richard Higa, who was baptized last April, went into the Temple for the first time Friday night, and did baptisms for the dead! He was so happy, and I was told he was grinning and just couldn't stop smiling. He LOVED it so much! Katherine stayed with Sister Carlile in the Visitors Center. What an amazing opportunity for this couple. Katherine is what we call reactivated, so we are hoping to help her be worthy of her own Temple recommend soon (:

The rest of the week, we had a steady flow of lessons each day. Friday night though. The wind. The rain. THE MADNESS.

We live above a members home, in a little pad, where the windows don't fully shut. The winds were literally blowing trees apart, debri everywhere, dogs were nearly flying off the leash, it was horrifying. Harris and I didn't sleep, at all. She ended up moving her mattress into our living room, and I stayed in our little room. Somewhere around midnight, I woke up and yelled because I suddenly felt super cold. Turns out our bedroom windows don't close all the way either, cause I totes got rained on in bed. I was angry. My desk got rained on as well, but nothing was ruined thankfully! We couldn't go out and do anything on Saturday though, because how bad the weather was. Today it's as if nothing happened!

I just want to bear my testimony that I know this is the true church of God. That I have come to know for myself, through prayer and studies, that the Book of Mormon is true. My desire is slowly becoming a passion, to serve the Lord and His children in this part of His vineyard. I really do love this gospel, and how it can change lives. I've seen so many miracles in my own life by living the commandments. I invite all of you to look at your day, and right down those daily miracles, no matter how small they may seem. I promise you, in the long run, they will be more meaningful than you originally thought. (:

I love you all so much! Have an amazing week!

Sister Noriega

Kaneohe Kankstaz

Love and miss my ohana <3

The things we do to visit our investigators

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paging Dr. Bishop!‏

This week, well. Not much missionary work was done, unfortunately. I won't go into too much detail, but I had a large medical issue that needed to be taken care of. Now, fortunately for me, my Bishop AND his wife are both doctors, and are the ones who caught the issue on time.

I had a very large, infected abscess that needed immediate treatment. Bishop and his wife took me to her office, and they performed the procedure to drain it. For real though, how many missionaries can say their bishop and his wife performed an operation on them? The Lord truly had me here for a reason!

That night, we were doing our monthly ward flood. Sister Harris and I went on splits with 4 other sisters in the ward. I was put with Sister Carlile (bishops wife) and another sister. When we got back to the chapel at about 8, I was in so much pain. And, naturally, Sister Carlile being a doctor and a mother, heard me yelp and was instantly by my side. Then she went into doctor-mode, and less than 2 hours later we were in her office doing the procedure.

Again, I won't go into much detail. It was sort of humorous though, for my companion and I. The numbing medication and shots weren't working, so I felt the entire procedure. I YELLED. THE ENTIRE TIME. Like, not just talked loudly, I literally yelled whatever popped into my head, which included the Hawaii Honolulu missionary motto, "I am a Child of God", "Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, and I also yelled at one point "MY POOR COMPANION IS PROBABLY TRAUMATIZED I'M SO SORRY SISTER HARRIS".

Needless to say, I'm doing much better now. I am still on medications, and super tired all the time, but the wound isn't infected and is getting better each day. I am so grateful for Bishop and Sister Carlile for the care they've provided for me, and for all they do to take care of the missionaries. 

So there's my fun week. On the way, we went to a cool look-out in Kaneohe! Here's a pic!

I am grateful for the love and support I feel from my fellow missionaries, and the ward. Don't worry Mom, I am in the best hands here (:

I love my mission, and am anxiously awaiting to get back out there and work! 

'Ofa atu,

(please pray for me!)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What does your tag mean to you?‏

Malo e lelei everyone!

This week has been pretty eventful, both in a good and bad way. I want to always focus on the positive things, though! (:

We had zone conference on Friday, and the Kaneohe Zone combined with Mililani. Because we had the conference in Kaneohe, we had to provide the special musical number. We did a mash up of "Nearer my God to Thee" and "Love at Home". It ended up sounding pretty nice! We received some really great counsel from President and Sister Warner, and from the 2 AP's. We learned of truly being a prepared missionary, and disciple. How important it is to prepare! As missionaries, we plan our days out, every single half hour is planned out. We prepare lessons for individuals, and for families that we will come in contact with. It is vital that we are ALWAYS prepared to share a message. God places so many people in our path, and there's no way we can predict when we will be given an opportunity to serve. Along with the teachings, we did some role-plays as a zone. So funny thing, President Warner stayed with our zone, and he sat next to me. I HAD TO ROLE-PLAY WITH MY MISSION PRESIDENT LIKE THAT DIDN'T MAKE ME NERVOUS OR ANYTHING PSH. 

Actually I was pretty impressed with myself, I stayed calm. He played the role of an investigator who has a hard time understanding the BOM, set with a baptismal date but was hesitant, and the only one in his family who would be joining. Hmm, sound familiar to your favorite missionaries conversion story? :P
I taught, and did my best to follow the promptings of the spirit to how I could best help this man. President Warner was extremely impressed with my performance, and said that I am a good listener and am able to discern the needs of the people I teach. How much that means to me, especially after these past few weeks! It was great (: I love zone conference! I was also able to see Elder Snell, who is serving in Mililani, who I came out with! Yesterday we hit our 4 month mark on the mission! :D Crazy, yeah?

On Saturday, I went to Honolulu for exchanges. My companion with Sister Ahockovi, and we really hit the ground running. It was cool, so serve in the Kahala ward. There are so many special people in each area of Hawaii, and beautiful places to see. We met choke people, but probably my favorite visit was with this older uncle and his wife. They were just sealed in the temple last year, and have a strong testimony. He was super funny, and you can tell how much he loves missionaries. He is such a jokester, and told me I was a chicana and all these things, and he suddenly got very serious. He looked straight at me, and asked "What does your tag mean to you?" I was startled. I never really thought about what the tag truly meant to me, other than marking me as a missionary. I thought for a moment, and the only thing I could come up with was "That I am a disciple of Christ". What a powerful moment that was, though, to have a reminder as to why I'm out here. I am serving the Lord, and HIS children. Yes, I am experiencing many personal joys out here, but it really is all for Him. Dang it was such a great day!

On Sunday, it was fast and testimony meeting. One of our investigators came, and he was the FIRST person to go up and bear his testimony. He said how grateful he was for His walk with Jesus Christ, and for the Mormon Missionaries. Then he said:

"I am very grateful for Sister Noriega, especially. Her testimony is beautiful, and she said something so beautiful to me: That I am a true disciple of Christ, an example to those around me, and I sound like a missionary. I cannot wait to become a member of God's true church upon the earth, and I thank you all."

Dang. How important this work we are doing out here is. I love my calling as a full-time missionary, and although it may be challenging at times, I know it is all worth it. I love Kaneohe, and the people I've met. I'm not sure where I'll be next transfer, but for now, I will continue to serve here with all my might, mind and strength. I love this gospel, and I know it is true. I love my Heavenly Father. Nobody said this mission would be easy, but they said it would be worth it. I know this to be true.

'Ofa atu,
Sister Nori

Honolulu near the blow hole

Kaneohe Zone

Sister S who I came out with - 4 months in!!