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'

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