Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our week in review:

We had a call from a Dr. in the U.S. on Wed.  He is the founder of a children’s charity called the  Liahona Children’s Foundation.  It’s a private, non-profit LDS group of people who have a desire to help eradicate malnutrition among children 6 mo. to 5-years of age.  They have run projects all around the world.  He said that the Philippines have the worst children’s malnutrition rate of any LDS population WW.  In a nutshell, he said he wanted to send a team of people out to our mission in less than 2-weeks to do screening in the wards/branches.  If they find children below the malnutrition level, they put them on a free milk product based and vitamins enhanced diet and track their progress.

There is more to the story, but to net it out—we took this to President Lopez.  He asked Karen to coordinate for the mission.  We are very impressed with the organization and believe it will be a great blessing for the members and they allow a 1:1 participation for non-members—so a great missionary opportunity as well. 

We are excited to participate in this extracurricular activity, although we’re both very busy with our healthcare and office work.  Karen has been running solo with medical for almost a month. George went solo with mission finance this week—closing out the books for April.  (I’ll probably get put in jail, I’m sure I messed something up!)

George: I got my first haircut in the Philippines.  We went to a ‘barber shop’ in a nice mall that was close by and had been recommended.  It looked pretty busy—every worker was busy, but we walked in and asked for a haircut.  They receptionist said, we have a person available now.  So the door opens and out walks a young man—I’m wondering, ‘did I get the second string here?’  Mom happened to look in the room where he came from.  She said it was packed with workers waiting for a client to come in. 

Anyway, it was an interesting experience.  Expecting a trim (the guy didn’t speak English), the guy pulls out kung-fu scissor moves and cuts my hair by hand—with amazingly fast moves.  I was afraid he was going to cut a finger—or worse, something on my head besides hair!  I ended up with close to 1/8” of hair on my head!  And when finished, the barber gave me an amazing neck mabbssage.  It’s definitely the closest cut I’ve ever had and the best price performer.  It cost an amazing $3.40!  WOW.

Mom was so scared, that she vows never to get her hair cut there.

This bus beat us to Church and was full, charted by a local unit.  We waited for passengers to disembark before driving through the gate into the parking lot.  Note the sign on the gate

Today we went to Cadiz to attend stake conference.  We arrived there a little early and buses, c-cats, and tricyles were dropping off members and investigators coming to conference.  One c-cat had 9 people on it (this is a motorcycle with a sidecar).   We shook many hands and were greeted warmly.  We also got to bring mail and supplies to the many missionaries serving in the surrounding areas.  They love to hear from loved ones and friends!  They are great examples to us and buoy our spirits.  The meeting included testimonies from eight missionaries getting ready to depart.  The Cadiz stake also has twenty two missionaries serving in the field.  This stake had 167 baptisms during the last year.  Since the conference was mostly in Ilonggo (the music in English), a Sister missionary who sat by us took notes for us which we would read after each speaker finished (that helped!).

Some pictures from our drive today:   
On the way for work

Men going to work.  There are no rules about riding in the back of trucks.  People seem to be very industrious and hard workers.

Food for sale

On our way we came across many people selling food items along the side of the road.  Today they were selling some sort of bread.  We have also seen other items including fish products.  We were traveling on the National Highway which goes around the island.  Traffic in the outlying areas was pretty good today.  My heart still skips a beat still, when someone is traveling down the wrong side of the road.


This is an above ground cemetery.  Today we passed two funeral processions.  One procession had a hearse that was very small and old.  The van had written on the side, “funeral” (the side and rear doors weren’t able to be closed).  Behind the vehicle were many people following on motorcycles.  Two to three people on each of the motorcycles.  The next procession had a larger hearse and big trucks filled with people following their loved one’s remains.

Friendly neighbors

The last picture was taken behind the mission home.  These children come from squatter families.  I think the Church area is a safe haven for them.  They were excited to have their pictures taken and liked seeing themselves in the picture.  When we were done talking, they all held out their hands, and asked for food.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

This is a picture along the national highway of a sugarcane harvest.  The work is all done manually.  The workers earn about $5.00 a day or less.  Sugar is the major agricultural crop of this island.

Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today we traveled to Cadiz, a city about 40 miles north of where we live, to attend Church at a ward and branch that meet in the Stake Center.  The drive was beautiful.  Plants here have a rich green lush hue.  This is a picture of recently planted sugar cane field which will take about a year to be ready for harvest.  The land is worked by manual labor (with Carabao helpers). 

Newly planted sugarcane field

The buildings completed here for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are beautiful.  Tile floors are laid throughout.  Air conditioning is part of the newer buildings, a luxury which is not usually found in most homes in this area, although not really equivalent to what we’re used to—it’s still quiet warm in the buildings.   The ward we attended, although they definitely follow a leisurely time frame, was standing room only by the end of the meeting.  This small ward of about 150 people had three confirmations today; all young men who were recently baptized.  The branch, which meet right after the ward finished sacrament meeting,  filled the chapel about three quarters full had two confirmations today; one young man and an elderly man who had been baptized the day before.  We are spiritually lifted by the young Sisters and Elders we have the opportunity to be with (2 each sets of Elders and Sisters).  People are so kind and want to shake our hands and use their English skills.  In both meetings they announced over the pulpit that we were special visitors by name.

This week was Holy Week and everything was closed except for some road side vendors, on Thursday and Friday of this week.  We actually loved this time, because traffic was the most calm and orderly we have witnessed since arriving.

When we first arrived in the Philippines, we thought of the words from the Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore".  Jeepneys (modified open sided vans that carry passengers), C-cats (motorcycles with a side car that hold passengers) and tricycles (bicycles with a side car that hold passengers); and that doesn’t include all the other vehicles on the road just trying to make their way.      

Shortly after we arrived we were taken to get a driving test.  Since we all ready had a US license, no driving was involved.  We had a quick physical exam administered by an “MD”, which pretty much made sure we didn’t have color blindness and then the wait began. Three and a half hours later in a room with about one hundred others, wall to wall, no air conditioning, we walked out with a temporary license, because their printer was out of ink.  We had to go back a couple of weeks later and wait only about an hour, while they printed our new licenses (they seemed to find ink for our delayed licenses, but there was still a sign displayed:  “No drivers licenses today—out of ink”).

In Bacolod, a city of 500,000 people, most traffic lights don’t work.  Sometimes they have a traffic director (some are quite entertaining).  A red light is merely a suggestion and a four lane road can quickly turn into an eight lane road.  (I don’t think I have ever seen an actual Stop sign).   The bigger vehicles have an advantage (we have a Ford Ranger which is pretty bigthey don’t offer this model in the U.S.—its about the size of an F-150 and for Spencer’s info. It is a 2.2L diesel).  It seems to be okay to park your car on outside lanes for pickups and deliveries and it’s okay to pull in front of someone or pass on the left or right side of road, just give a little honk.  Four way intersections are interesting and sometimes end up with cars stuck without being able to move, but after a minute, somebody gives a little leeway and things move on.  I’m thankful that Elder Mower has been our driver so far (we both drive with fear and trepidation and pray for safety on the roads before we venture out).  The President has asked for Karen to drive, but as of yet, she hasn’t made up her mind—can’t blame her.

Yesterday was our P-day because the President asked us to start keeping the Mission Office open on Monday’s.  It started out great, but Karen ended up working spending most of the day.  It's great to hear her talk to the missionaries—she does her work in a very kind, thoughtful, understanding way—she’s doing a great job!  Today she got a reprieve.

We are thankful for this opportunity to serve in the Philippines Bacolod Mission.  It was so wonderful to attend two sacrament meetings and see 5 confirmations.  The Church is truly experiencing wonderful growth here.  And the brethren (I’m assuming Elder Oaks had a lot to do with this) have prepared marvelously for this to happen.  As we drove 40-miles north we saw four beautiful buildings along the way—so they had the foresight to literally pave the way for growth to happen.  The Filipino’s have stepped up and provided leadership in these Stakes of Zion.  And we see families with husband/wives/children filling the benches.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sorry we’re behind schedule on keeping the blog up to date.  We’ve been inundated with learning new responsibilities, getting our accommodations up to speed, learning to drive, finding food, getting internet, etc.

Here's a brief update:

The night of Tuesday, March 25th we arrived in Manila around midnight after 20.5 hours flying time from Salt Lake City (SLC to Detroit to Nagoya to Manila).  There were three international flights arriving about the same time, so there was chaos in customs as we disembarked to a steamy room with hundreds of people navigating their way out.  We were met by a wonderful couple and they took us a short twelve mile trip to the Missionary Training Center/ Missionary Recovery Center that sits across the street from the Manila Temple.   We spent the night there and the next day we went on a tour of the site.  It was a great morning as we learned a little about the many people who help in the work of our Heavenly Father.

Here's a picture of us with Kim Ellison, another Nurse Specialist whom we met in the MTC, and flew to the Philippines with us.  She's great and will be serving in the Cebu Mission.

Manila Temple


Later in the day it was time to go back to the airport and take a 1-hour flight to Bacolod.  The twelve mile trip to the airport took over two hours.  There are over 20 million people in Manilla and I think they were all on the roadJ.  Lanes and traffic restrictions seem to be only suggestions here!

Last Sunday, April 6, 2014, we had the opportunity to attend a baptism and attend Church in an area far from where we live.  It took two and a half hours to travel to this paradise including single lane roads, often not even paved.  Once we arrived we had another mile walk to get to the make shift chapel.  We walked uphill along a stream where people were bathing and washing hair and clothes.  It was muddy, but it was a wonderful experience not soon to be forgotten.   
Rice Fields

Walk up the hill to Church

We also were able to attend a baptism which required another long walk.  One of the young women that was baptized, later shared her sweet testimony.

Baptism in irrigation pool

What you can’t see from the picture of the baptism, just about twenty feet away were a mom and baby carabao (water buffalo to us).  These large animals are hard workers, working in the fields.

Karen with Momma and baby carabao

The chapel in Colonial Divinia was a make shift structure made out of bamboo with a thatched roof.  The ground was dirt and chickens and dogs wandered in and out of our little Chapel during Sacrament Meeting.  At one point a chicken jumped up on the Sacrament Table before he was shooed away.  Even though little English was used, the spirit was strong. 

Meeting place at Colonial Divinia