Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cute smiling boy in tree
Twice this week we have driven south in the early morning hours (it gets light here all year round about 5:30 am) and found travel slow because people are up and preparing for the day.    Any type of vehicle has rights on the road including bicycles.  You can smell fragrant frying meats.  The water pumps are busy gathering spots.  There is school and paying jobs to get to.  Sweeping along the road (using a small broom made out of dried reeds) is never ending and taken seriously by all who live here.  We can’t forget the roaming animals including dogs, chickens, ducks, goats and turkeys.  I sometimes feel so thankful to have this opportunity to see things I never even imagined before coming here.

We just remembered it is Thanksgiving week in US.  No holiday for giving thanks here, but we certainly count our blessings daily.  We are thankful for our loved ones.  We do look forward to our weekly video visits with our children and grandchildren and audio with our parents. Heavenly Father is very mindful of the missionaries and we have witnessed miracles in their lives. 

We have been fortunate to meet many who have been blessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Today we talked to Jofrim who was baptized a year ago and is active in the Church.  He gave up his former business of selling spiders to children (they do spider fights here) and is attending school now with help from the Church Perpetual Education Fund.  

Near our neighborhood a disabled man with swollen legs and one arm that doesn’t work too well is often busy sweeping.  When he sees the blue truck coming, he stands at attention and salutes; George salutes back.  The other day, for the first time, we stopped and gave him some crackers (you know, Elder Holland's recent talk).  He smiled big enough for us to see he had only a few teeth left and said, “Thank you Elder” in English--that was certainly unexpected!

We went to Ma-ao yesterday after stopping in Bago to pick up some passengers to attend a river baptism.  The Bishop of the Bago ward, Ira who is newly engaged, and her brother Daniel who is preparing for a mission early next year rode with us.  We followed another truck with missionaries and more passengers.  We were glad that Ira spoke English well enough to be our interpreter.
Bishop speaking at member--complete with ducks roaming around ;-)

The bishop (shown in previous picture) is a humble man who truly cared for his flock. This group of members in Ma-ao are part of his ward and are organized into what is called a "Group".  The Group holds a special sacrament meeting each week--and Ma-oa is about a 45-minute trike ride from the ward building.  I asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a laborer.
Host preparing food to put on fire
We went to a member’s house until everyone assembled (which took over an hour).  Ira told me people in the Philippines always want to prepare snacks for their guests.  Our host was no exception.  A small bag of sticks was purchased to make a cooking fire.  With a machete in one hand, coconuts were cut.  The coconut was held in the other hand during this process.  Yikes!  Milk was pressed from the coconut meat and cooked with root vegetables.  When the concoction was soft it was ready to eat.  They purchased ice (they had no fridge) and bought a couple of big bottles of Coke to share.  What kind, sharing people!  The small cement house with no running water or glass windows and open doors that allowed the ducks to come and go at they saw fit overlooked a deep ravine and a winding river.  It was a breathtaking view.
Path to river where baptism was performed
Pedestrian suspension bridge across river--which people freely used as a clothes line :-)
Path down to river
View of bridge from river

People assembled after baptism

When we walked to the baptism I slipped on a muddy hill and fell.  This area didn’t appear hard to get to but we had to jump twice about three feet over a deep crevice over water to get to the baptismal spot.  People from the village were watching and wanting to be of service, brought wooden planks to cross the river on the way back.  Only my pride was hurt.  It was a great day!
Local neighbors brought these planks over to help us get back over the water
Karen & I standing by Raya, who was baptized along with the missionaries
View of river from bridge

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