Sunday, January 25, 2015

Yeah--another carabao!  This is the front half

Here's the proud owner/handler--they were too close to capture in one shot
Today we attended a small ward in Calumagan, an area south of Bacolod.  When we pulled up, the lone vehicle in the parking lot, young men and women came out to welcome us and they thanked us for coming to visit them.  As the members and investigators trickled in, several women hugged me and I leaned down and was kissed on the cheek.
Calaumuangan parking lot
While attending Sunday School, the Primary children were next door and sang in loud clear voices, “I am Trying to Be Like Jesus” and “We are as the army of Helaman”.  There is no piano or music, so the tune and rhythm vary. . but I love their energy and singing in English.    
Motorycyle with a relaxed passenger and cargo stashed below
Yesterday driving, we noticed most of the traffic lights out, today that continued with a full blown brown out.  The electricity stopped abruptly around 7:30 am and returned after 5:00 pm.  Even in Calumagan, an area outside of Bacolod. . Brown out!  It was a nice overcast, drizzly day, so the heat wasn’t too bad.

This week has been a wakeup call in humility.  Being humble is not my strong point; I like to see the ending before it happens.  (Yes I always read the conclusion of a book first).  The Lord has blessed the Philippines Bacolod Mission greatly.  It has been a busy week; there is a lot going on in the mission.  We feel the Lord’s hand and care!  We are so honored and blessed to associate with the fine missionaries serving here and their continued desire to press forward and serve their Heavenly Father.  We were able to attend some trainings by the Assistants to the Presidents and Zone Leaders. . “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”.  It was wonderful!  We love the scripture from  Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Murcia Baptism with Elders Barangay and Lowe
Yesterday we were able to be with Elder Barangay and Elder Lowe.  This is Elder Barangay’s last week in the mission field.  We love Elder Barangay, his spirit is strong and he has a testimony that has grown.  His family has been blessed as he has served.   We attended their baptism.  A husband and wife, two children of member mother, a grown daughter of member mother and a young man with member friends.

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve as the Lord has blessed us far more than the little we have given.
Jackfruit is the largest tree-born fruit in the world. It can reach 36 inches long and 20 inches wide! it's growing near our apartment--some have a protective covering neighbors have placed on it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Yeah, and you expected what?

George and I have just returned from taking Elder Shayne M. Bowen (of the Seventy) to the airport.  We were honored to be his chauffeur as we traveled to meetings and Stake Conference in Bago Saturday and Sunday.  Bago is a city South of Bacolod with a population of about 160,000 people.  Elder Bowen is a counselor in the area presidency of the Philippines.
A nice park where we enjoyed a nice walk along the ocean
Yesterday we had a couple of hours before being needed back at the Church (Elder Bowen was in meetings) so we walked along an inlet of ocean.  There was a cement path and we enjoyed the cool air.  Yes the temperature was actually cool.  Later we saw missionaries (there are 20 in this area) and they were saying how cold it was.  Okay 79 degrees isn’t exactly cold, but it was cool.  Today these same missionaries were complaining of the heat!
Boys playing basketball on left and a rock game on right
I enjoyed watching some young boys playing some sort of game that seemed to have rules and a purpose.  The only requirement was a rock tossed with an expectation and there were physical maneuvers.  It seems that our (U.S.) culture is so caught up in having the latest toys, etc. to be contented—and here were poor boys who had nothing, yet seemed to be happy and having fun.
Children coming in on the small ferry
We watched a small boat ferry people from one side of the inlet to the other.  Although the boat was small and the handler steered the boat well through the wind and the waves, there were no life jackets.  There were also people having picnics; rice and fried chicken is always a treat.
Interesting sign up in the park
Later at the adult meeting when they announced Elder Bowen to be the speaker, he whispered to the Stake President who then invited George and me to bear our testimonies.  When I was speaking Elder Bowen leaned over to George and said, “There is no free lunch”.
Some of the missionaries serving in the Bago Zone
As we walked into the Chapel for stake conference this am, they put these medallions on us
I think coming on a mission has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, but we have been blessed so greatly and we have grown so much (and I don’t mean rice bellys).  We have met many people who have very little, but are happy.  We came to serve, but it is us who have been served.  We love our dear Mission President and his wife; President and Sister Lopez greatly.  They have given their lives to service by example.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Another great carabao picture--Karen loves them!

This week we took missionaries to the airport.  Sister Remund was one leaving.  We met her Grandmother in Salt Lake City, just days prior to our coming to the Philippines back in March 2014.  She and her husband were leaving in a few weeks to serve in Hawaii where she is also a mission nurse.  Who would have thought we would have occasion to get to know her granddaughter and grow to love her!  Her trip home started with a quick trip from Bacolod to Manila.  The following day her itinerary took her from Manila to Tokyo, Japan to Seattle, Washington, to Salt Lake City, Utah and then a quick flight to southern Utah.  Finally arriving home Thursday evening after many hours of travel; she was looking forward to seeing her family!  She had repacked her suitcases in the mission office.  She left most of her clothes behind and filled the empty spaces with treasures to remind her family of her time in the Philippines Bacolod Mission.  She starts a new chapter in her life tomorrow; school begins!
Sister Remund--her red hair was a hit in the Philippines, and she was a great missionary
I often get to share health related messages at Mission Leadership Training and this week was no exception.  The only thing is; I am the one who usually gains insights from our young missionaries!  We talked about goals and I said Heavenly Father believed in goals and directed them to Moses 1:39, I knew they knew this scripture and as I read it they all spontaneously joined in unison and shared this verse, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to  pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”   It is such a privilege to work with the missionaries!
Beautiful lush green vegetation in front of home where the meeting was held
This proves plants grow anywhere here--plant growing from a tin can hung on the fence post
We traveled a short way to Silay this morning and picked up Elder Newton and Elder Pedroso to travel to Aidsisa to attend a Special Sacrament Meeting.  The twenty minute drive took us away from the crowded bustling area to lush green sugar cane fields on roads full of potholes.  We saw a man on the side of the road holding out a can looking for money and we stopped and gave him SkyCaps (crackers), he graciously accepted them and we gave out a few more as people gathered around the truck.  They said “thank you” and smiled.  The Elders told us that people really are looking for money to help fix the roads.  They were probably kind of surprised by the crackers!
Elder Newton & Pedroso standing in shed where meeting is to be held
As we arrived at the home where we were to attend the meeting, the owners were busy sweeping and preparing area where the meeting was to be held.  In the background, we could hear the music coming from the open air Catholilc Mass being held just a few hundred meters away.  The member of the bishopric who was presiding came up to George minutes before the meeting started and said, today you will give our “spiritual message”.  Clarke, a 10 year old boy came up to George and asked him to speak slowly, so he could understand.  He says he is planning to serve as a missionary in a few years.  It was another memorable experience.
Newly announced Mission President; President and Sister Deyro
We were very pleased to hear of the announcement of our dear friends, President and Sister Deyro as the new Mission President of the Philippines Urdaneta Mission—they will be wonderful!  They will be very busy between now and July 1 making preparations for the big change.  Sister (Dr. Deyro) has worked with Sister Mower all these months to care for the missionaries.  She will now take care of the Urdaneta missionaries—they are so fortunate!  We will miss them.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A pet monkey eating a package of crackers I threw up to him--he opened them himself

Mahigugmaon nga bag-ong dag (Happy New Year!)

Sundays have become a favorite day of the week for us because we get to travel to different wards, branches and special sacrament meetings and be with the missionaries.  We left at 6:30 last Sunday and traveled north.  Even at this early hour, the streets are busy.  Vendors have flowers and snacks for sale in front of churches.  Fresh fish are fanned to be more enticing to customers and there are many varieties of rice available.  There was a big truck that had been in a wreck that required closure of a lane of travel.  When we returned 9 hours later, the truck and barriers were still there.

I loved walking into the Minapasok branch and seeing Elder ‘Iloa at the podium sharing a gospel message.  He’s a BIG giant of a man from Tonga, but humble as a lamb.  Even entering the back of the chapel late, people kindly brought us chairs to sit on.  Elder ‘Iloa spoke with authority and his audience was attentive.   After his talk he came to the back of the overcrowded room and sat by us.  It was apparent the people love him!  We arrived at approximately 45-minutes after the expected close of meeting, but after 17 baptismal confirmations, the meeting had gone way over time.  He and his companion, Elder Tacuban, had baptized 16 converts on Christmas Day.
Well at Sister Mendoza's house--quite a rarity to have their own well
Inside the well
Most of our time was spent in the area of Elder Allam and Elder Minson, Dian-ay (Jen-i).  Elder Minson showed us the way to Bario Puey a community in a bukid (jungle area) where a special sacrament was to be held.  He said normally they come by habal-habal (on the back of a motorcycle).  Today was cloudy and misting and then raining and the meeting of 29 people moved into the small living room of the Mendoza family.  As customary when entering a home here, I removed my shoes as did everyone else.  The hostess, Sister Mendoza brought my shoes in and told me, I could wear my shoes.  There were only several people that could speak any English.  So we communicated using simple words and showing pictures.  They showed me a number of pictures of themselves in their baptismal clothes with special missionaries in their lives.  I showed them a picture of George and me and our grandchildren. 
Some of the people pose for a picture, Elder Minson on the left
Elder Minson conducted the meeting, confirmed the newest members and blessed the sacrament.  Shortly before the sacrament he noticed there was no bread; crackers in my bag came in handy.  We have been here long enough to see spiritual growth in missionaries, Elder Minson is notable.  His companion, Elder Allam, is wonderful as well, but he stayed back in Dian-ay to help out.
Bridge to leading to Bario Puey--another foot or so and we'd be staying the night
After the meeting a Sister asked for a ride to take her partway to her destination.  She initially said she would sit in the bed of the truck (it was raining); we invited her to sit in the truck cab.  She spoke well enough to name many missionaries by name she had grown to love over the years including the Elder who baptized her back in 1998.
Accumulated water at the entrance of our neighborhood
Water on major street on our way to Mission Office--nice to have a truck :-)
On New Year’s Eve we were on day five of rain from a tropical depression.  This is the most rain we have seen since arriving last March and way worse than the recent Typhoon  Ruby.  Driving to the mission office, we experienced many flooded areas.  Life continues on in the Philippines, the waters just a temporary obstacle.  Unfortunately because of the rain and winds, a very large mango tree next to us and many banana trees were downed, but no water in our apartment (other than 120% humidity ;-).

The Philippine people (and I do not think this is a hasty generalization) love to build fires, they love loud drums with a little music with deep base and they love their fireworks.  I read that the Philippines is a dangerous place to be on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day because of fireworks.  Not a few firecrackers or sparklers, but homemade tubes with some sort of fuel placed in them and lit to create booms like we were in a war zone.  The missionaries were asked to be in their apartments by 6 pm New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day eve for safety purposes.  There seems to be fireworks every day, but these days were non-stop.  Between 11:30 pm and 1:30 am our bedroom was like day as neighbors on every side were trying to outdo each other.  I didn’t even mind on New Year’s Day when the rain started again.  I think it curtailed the noise celebration somewhat.

Two large trees uprooted from storm next to our apartment
Downed trees, view from apartment--the base of the large trunk is 4'