Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas cheer displayed along a street near we live--these are trees made from recyclables
Malipayong Paskua! (Merry Christmas)

George and I attended Church in the newest chapel on the island on Sunday; a beautiful small fishing community next to the ocean, Himoga-an.  As I walked into Sacrament Meeting, George mentioned that we would be speaking today along with the Elders.  This chapel had a piano that they press a few buttons and the Hymn of choice plays.  Many choristers that we have seen on the island lead the music using some pretty fancy arm maneuvers; maybe that is why some meetings have more than one chorister (it is tiring).  After the meeting we walked along the beach before heading towards Cadiz.

Later, we attended a ‘special’ sacrament meeting (this is where there is no organized unit in the area and the bishopric or branch presidency authorizes and presides at a special meeting outside the formal chapel and organized unit) in Bayabas Uno.  We met Elders Friare and Celebrado, along with Branch President Valero; a kind, humble man and traveled into the sugar cane fields.  This was only the second time they had met in this area.  The brother and sister who hosted the meeting at their humble home had placed a homemade sign that displayed the Church’s name.
Elders Celebrado & Friare in front of makeshift sign where special sacrament was held
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 2:00pm.  In the Philippines, despite advertised start times, the meeting starts when a critical mass of people gets there.  While we waited, there were many curious children and George started passing out packaged crackers (we keep these mainly for beggars).  He initially gave a few packages away.  They went and told more children and this continued until we had given 15+ away.  They stayed for sacrament meeting; maybe they learned something they will never forget.
Some of the children that attended the special sacrament meeting
People continued to gather until we had (we were told) 57 people in attendance (about 3pm).  The Branch President had Karen and I sit up front, sort of on display I guess ;-).  I think some had never seen a white skinned person in real life.  After the meeting one of the Elders’ came up to Karen and asked her to meet with some young men who had questions.  They quizzed her about how she got her skin so white—they asked; ‘what kind of cream do you use?’  She told them that was the color of her skin.  On a side note, in the Philippines, all the stores sell whitening crèmes, lotions, and potions.  In fact, it’s hard to buy lotion without a whitener.
Group Photo with some of the attendees
We enjoyed a very merry Christmas unlike any we have experienced.   We attended the 7 am Catholic Mass at the Regional Hospital—yes you read correctly.  It was a very good experience for us.  I had met Father Mendoza a few weeks ago when we sought permission to carol and provide gifts to the pediatric ward of the hospital.  He was very helpful to us—and I told him we would come to his mass on Christmas Day.  He even introduced us during mass and the congregation clapped for us.  He gave us a very cordial greeting after mass and thanked us for coming; a very good man indeed.
Pediatrics Ward on Christmas morning
Another section of the pediatrics unit with the Deyros and friends
Singing Christmas Carols to the children and their families
We joined with our friends President and Dr. Deyro, their daughter Ina and son Zech and several return missionaries to help us deliver gifts to children in the pedia (pediatric) ward.  Zech played the keyboard, there was a tambourine and we caroled to the children and their loved ones.  Although it was Christmas, the ward was full and we greeted some very sick children and their worried loved ones.  Hopefully for a moment their spirits were lifted.  I know mine was.

We also attended two different baptisms in Bacolod.  Our mission had a white Christmas (200+ baptisms on Christmas Day!)  The missionaries work hard to make this a special time for all.  Across the mission there were marriages, many baptisms and celebrations to honor the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Palangga namon kamo (we love you all!)

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