“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good” (Psalms 136:1)
My first Sunday in the Don Mills Ward, in the Toronto Stake, was also the first Sunday for a brother from the Philippines who had just arrived in Canada to join his wife after many years of separation. It was also testimony meeting that Sunday, and it was there that I first heard the phrase, “we are so much thankful.” One might think this was simply a grammatical error by an English-language learner, but the phrase has a much more beautiful meaning.
Elder David A. Bednar also noticed this special phrase on a trip to the Philippines in 2017. In an article shared about his visit, a missionary from the Philippines MTC [Mission Training Center] explained the phrase. “We are so much thankful” is just an ordinary expression used by Filipinos, especially whenever we pray. We use the ‘much’ to show intensity and heartfelt thanks for the abundant blessings” (“We Are So Much Thankful,” Church News, March 27, 2017).
In 2020, President Russell M. Nelson taught, “Over my nine and a half decades of life, I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription. Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, sadness, grief and pain? No, but it does soothe our feelings. It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life” (Russell M. Nelson, #Give Thanks. Read his message “The Healing Power of Gratitude,” November 20, 2020).
Meet the Almoete family
On this day of thanksgiving in Canada, read about Maurice and Laarni Almoete and their family, living in the Toronto Stake. They truly show what it means to be “so much thankful” and are beautiful examples of what it means to have a thankful heart no matter the circumstances.
The Almoete family, from the Philippines, never really thought coming to Canada was possible. Sister Almoete, Laarni, arrived in Canada on April 27, 2014 to work as a nanny and home-care worker. The people were extremely kind to her, but sadly she had to leave her husband and two sons back in the Philippines.
Laarni writes, “I was very happy when I was already here in Canada. First and foremost, I was not discriminated against. My employer treated me as a member of their family. I had my own room; I ate decent meals; and I had two days off which I never really had in Hong Kong [where she had worked before coming to Canada]. The thing that struck me the most was when I would see families having a picnic in the park and eating together with their kids. I could see so much love and happiness in them.”
But Laarni longed for her family. She also experienced an extremely hard trial when she was diagnosed with cancer and had to face it alone in Canada. She recognizes that the Lord was very kind to her during this trial and she was so thankful to have been in Canada for the treatments. She was able to apply for Permanent Residency for her family and on March 4, 2017, she was reunited with her two sons and husband.
Laarni welcomes her husband Maurice and two sons to Canada in 2017
Living in Canada has been challenging, as the Almoete family has had to focus on financial stresses and the transition to living as a family after being apart for many years. Laarni, while thankful for her employment, recognized that she was missing time with her own boys, and has been blessed to complete the Personal Support Worker courses and the Medical Office Administrator Diploma. They had to start over here in Canada to provide for their family, even though Laarni and Maurice had established careers at home in the Philippines.
They were able to apply for and receive their Canadian Citizenship in 2022. They shared, “On the day of the online oath-taking ceremony, we were so happy but not as happy as we felt when we received our Canadian passport. It felt like all the difficulties, hardships, trials, and burdens we felt were lifted off our shoulders. Finally, we are living our dream, after 10 long years. We never really thought it would become a reality.”
Since receiving their citizenship, they’ve been able to travel home to the Philippines to visit their families and to bring back Laarni’s mother, to care for her here in Canada.
Canada, so much thankful
With great humility, Laarni writes, “Canada is a great country. It has helped and is continuously helping families like mine. I am very grateful to be here. And given the chance to go back in time, I would still choose to come here despite the many challenges that we went through. When asked why we wanted to work overseas instead of just staying in the Philippines, our main reason was we wanted to help more people. Life in the Philippines is hard, even though I was working as a nurse and my husband as a public-school teacher, we still couldn’t have the quality of life that we wanted most especially for our kids. Here in Canada, we still live paycheck to paycheck but living conditions are better. I see a better future for my kids, hopefully, and a greater chance of helping not only our families but also our relatives and people who are close to our heart who are really in great need. We didn’t aim to gain riches here, we just really wanted to help more people.
“And as our way of saying thank you to Canada, we are doing our best to live fairly and productively. We are all immigrants here, but Canada welcomed us warmly and supported our needs. We will always make sure that we interact with people from different walks of life, with love, kindness, and understanding. I take pride in saying that I am a Canadian citizen with a Filipino heart.”