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!

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