Sunday, June 29, 2014

Outside our apartment ... we're growing

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I have thought a lot about gratitude this week.  Isn’t it easy to be thankful when things are going our way?  But as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?”  We have been expecting a care package that was mailed weeks ago, and it is looking like it will never arrive.  I have felt a little sorry for myself.  All the treasures I was looking forward to receiving are who knows where.   The mailing was done as suggested, which included putting pictures of Jesus on the box; but it has never come.  I remember meeting a sweet sister last week who told me she has heart failure and kidney failure, but added, “I am happy”.  This has caused reflection on my part that we need to be thankful in our circumstances.  Things are just things.

Today we traveled to Victorias, a 45-minute travel time from Bacolod.  We attended a ward there and after being greeted by many friendly members and meeting investigators, we were asked to sit on the stand as Sacrament meeting was getting ready to start.  Minutes before the meeting began we were asked to speak.  I have never been good at speaking without much preparation, but we did it.  I try to speak slowly (in English) because my Hiligaynon consists of a few words.

After Church, we were invited to go to an investigator’s home.  We parked the truck and walked about a half mile through a grassy path that led to a village of bamboo homes with tin roofs.  No locks on doors, because there are no doors.  No windows to wash, or window coverings, just a gentle breeze.  This is a place where dogs and chickens walk where they want, because they can.  No running water, only buckets filled elsewhere.  This humble home had a few dishes and pans, a few cooking utensils neatly organized on wooden shelves nailed to the bamboo wall.  There was a pile of wood, and a hot coal keeping a pot warm.  In the center of a plastic tablecloth covered table were flowers in a vase.  Rice bags filled with dirt provided steps to get to the sleeping area.  The dirt floor was smooth.  This is their home and the sister graciously welcomed us in!

Simple, humble home sweet home
Mother and baby Carabao on way to above home                                                                  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Flowers for Karen from Central Market
Interesting start to the week!  Late Monday night I received a message, "I have been bitten by a snake". I called the Sister who lives over two hours away. They poured alcohol on bite site and wondered what more they could do. The site was painful, didn't bleed much and was a little swollen. I suggested she get a priesthood blessing. 

It was a long night.  George and I prayed (as I am sure many others did) for her well being.  Early the next morning I contacted her.  She said, "I am well, Sister Mower".  The swelling was gone and there was no redness when we visited later in the day.  There was only one puncture site and a scratch.  I told her she was our miracle; D&C 84:72:  "And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them".
She showed us a picture of the dead snake. It was longer than she is tall (she is around 5').
The Lord loves his missionaries!

Elder Garson & Mother
We had the opportunity to take two new missionaries to the airport who are from the La Carlota District after the Mission President set them apart.  They were headed to Manila to the MTC.  One of their mothers’ came with us.  I asked her how she felt about her son going on a mission.  Through an interpreter (her Branch President), I told her I cried when our son left for his mission.  She said, “I am not sad, I am happy”.  She is a widow with five children.  This is her first son to go on a mission.  When her husband was dying, he told her, he would be happy if all of his children could serve missions; now her son is serving a mission.  On Father’s Day last week, two of her other sons announced they would also like to serve missions.  She said she knows this is what her husband would want, and it makes her happy.
Banate Family taught by the Sisters

Yesterday (Saturday), we attended the baptism of a family that was taught as a result of the Liahona child malnutrition screenings that we helped organize for the Mission.  Here’s a picture of the mother and four children; a fifth is shown and will be baptized in July (+1 other child from another family).  We also attended their confirmation today, and were asked to speak in sacrament meeting.

We enjoy our service here in the Philippines and love our family and friends back home.

May God bless you.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014 Fathers Day

My theme for this week has been that we can make choices that will bless our entire lives.  Last Sunday we attended a seminary fireside in EB Magalona.  The seminary teacher has two children.  Her husband works abroad to support the family.  He returned in December from a 3 year job in Japan and is now off to New Zealand for 3 more years.  We loved her 11 year old son CJ who speaks several languages (he learned from video games) and wants to be a missionary.  She is essentially raising her children alone, but chooses to make the best of the situation and use her time to help others.

President & Sister Pagaduan--Spiritual Giants
We have been among spiritual giants this weekend.  George and I were asked to “host” the Cebu Temple President and his wife, President and Sister Pagaduan.   We were able to spend one on one time with these choice individuals which included six hours of travel along the National Highway.  We went to Stake Conference in Sagay (87 km one way) on both Saturday and Sunday.  They shared their conversion story and the choices they have made in their lives to learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ and their willingness to accept callings that have come their way.  President even gave up a government position in his chosen field, to work for CES so he could learn more about the scriptures.

Elder Echo Hawk of the First Quorum of the Seventy (and former BYU football standout)
We also enjoyed a dinner and an early breakfast with them along with our mission President and Sister Lopez and Elder Echo Hawk of the Seventy.  Our breakfast included the biggest sardines I have ever seen!  No I’m not quite up for that yet, but George said it was pretty tasty.  We were not only physically fed, but spiritually.  And we were there!

After the Stake Conference today, we gathered for a group picture which included our 26 young missionaries assigned to this area, President and Sister Lopez, President Abat (counselor in mission presidency), President and Sister Pagaduan, Elder Echo Hawk and George and myself.   There were many people snapping pictures, it will probably be the closest I ever feel to being a celebrity.  Following the group photo, several people came up and asked to have their picture taken with me.  [this is George; note they wanted a picture with Karen, not me; can't blame them LOL]. The people here are so kind and know how to make us feel a part of things.  I received many hugs and handshakes.

Missionaries from the Sagay Zone (and some stragglers ;-)
We are so proud of the young missionaries who are work so hard.  These missionaries sang Called to Serve, at the Saturday adult session.  Moms and Dads you would be so proud!

One of our licensed nurses; Sister Montemayor (left) and Sister Tanes
We were able to have those missionaries in our mission without typhoid immunizations receive their immunizations this past week.  Two of the Filipino licensed nurses who are currently serving as full-time missionaries readily agreed to help.    When I asked the President how we would make this happen, he said let’s do it at zone conference, which was only a few days away.  Our contact in the Manila Area Office made it happen and the immunizations arrived hours before the first zone conference started, which was a direct answer to my prayers.  Our Heavenly Father loves his missionaries.

One last note; Thursday, June 12 was Independence Day in the Philippines.  Government offices and banks were closed.  We had a special treat when we heard a marching band sound outside the office and walked down the street to explore--there was a full-blown parade going on.  Due to our unique appearance, and since we were the only ones dumb enough to stand on the sunny side of the street on a 90+ degree/humidity level day, we got many stares back from the parade participants.  Here's a picture of a cute girls marching team.

Girl's Marching Team

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014 (Karen's Birthday!)

Another wonderful week in the Philippines.  Time goes so quickly!  We had new experiences this week and we're getting into a pretty good routine.  We try and be in the office by 8:30 a.m. where George takes care of the finances and Karen fields texts and calls from sick missionaries and helps a little in the office.  We get out and run errands from time to time, which give us a chance to have lunch or dinner out, etc.
Girls Walking Home from School (one girl has her arm around the other :-)

School started this week.  The school aged children attend school from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday.  I love their uniforms.  They are neat and modest in their below the knee red skirts and white tops for the girls and khaki pants and white shirts for the boys.

These Girls Stopped and Posed for Karen 

We had an unusual but very interesting experience going to a shoe store this week.  (There's a reason why the sign is on the door; walking into the room could result in getting bonked on the head with a falling shoe!)

Wacky Shoes (aptly named)
The store is popularly used by the missionaries because the prices are great, and is aptly named “Wacky Shoes”.  It is located in a very busy shopping district; picture the busiest Wal-Mart store you’ve ever been in and multiply the traffic by ten times!  It was difficult to maneuver down the narrow aisles.  Anyway, you walk in the store and they have one shoe out of a pair on display.  You hope the size runs true, because you don’t want to wait to try a pair on.  You order the desired shoe along with the size and it comes falling through the ceiling about five minutes later onto the floor!  You can see in the pictures shoes are being returned up through the ceiling as well, by a string going through a three foot square opening.  George bought some rubber shoes, which the missionaries wear, in preparation for rainy season to begin.  They’re a real price performer—about $9/pair.

Product Delivery System ;-)
Note:  I'm not standing on a ladder taking this picture.  I'm standing at 6' (with my shoes on) taking this picture and this is how much taller I am than most of the people.  I told Spencer that I sort of know how he feels standing at 6'7".

We were able to take a new missionary from one of the Districts in our Mission to the airport after being set apart by the Mission President.  He was preparing to travel to the Manila MTC to begin his mission.  Most of these kids have never been on an airplane.  In the truck we drive (2013 Ford Ranger) we had a total of eight people.  The missionary, his mother, the Branch President and his wife and two children rode in the back seat!  

From the branch in La Carlotta, where this young man is from, they currently have four serving as missionaries (we met one missionary assigned to the Salt Lake Temple mission when we were there).  Two have received their calls and are preparing to leave shortly.  Three are working on their mission papers.

By the way, we’ve had up to 14 in the truck; 6 Sisters in the back seat and 6 elders in the bed of the truck, and Karen & I in the front!  It was a short run, delivering them from mission meetings at night.  No rules here about seat belts or having people in the bed.

George and I were invited to attend part of the Mission Leadership Training this week.  We love the young missionaries; their spirits are strong.

Have a great week!


Karen & George