Sunday, February 22, 2015

Little boy with bare bum at chungee across the street
Sister Mower poses with two of our favorite Sisters; Maningas and Kumar
Today our plans changed and we ended up in the ward with Elder Prepchuk and Elder Nemelka.  Elder Prepchuk has only been out a few months and has recently been made a senior companion.  I feel so blessed to have been able to hear the message he shared in his new ward.  I remember his first day in the mission.  He conducted one of the training sessions and was a little unsure of himself.  He has grown greatly in this challenging work of being a proselytizing missionary.  His language, his testimony and his love of serving his Heavenly Father was evident.
14-year old care giver and little brother with Sister Ferrin
We met a 14 year old girl, whose mother had “left” and she is the caregiver for her four younger brothers.   She brought her two year old brother to Church.  It was apparent he loved his sister and followed her like a shadow.  Their Lola (grandmother) helps with their care during the week, so she can attend school.  The little guy was so happy when his big sister finally picked him up, although he had not fussed at all.  He laid his head on her shoulder and promptly fell asleep.
View of alligator island from our lunch spot
We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade of a big mango tree overlooking the ocean.  We had great company, President and Sister Ferrin.  We later went to see the “cottage” where they will be moving while the mission home is being refurbished in preparation for the new president and his wife.  We were blessed to find this property and will move there after the Ferrins return to the Mission Home.
View of Chinese New Year decorations and setup along the busy road we travel to Mission Office
Actually we met the upcoming Mission President and Sister Barredo this weekend.  They are young!  They have both served missions and are originally from this area.  They are a wonderful couple and are looking forward to this adventure.
Chinese dragon--these young men put on a display just for us
This week was Chinese New Year and another reason to have a celebration!  Red lanterns decorate the streets and roads have been closed.  Vendors put up shop to sell their wares and music has been playing. . .the louder the better.  I have seen several variations of dragons wandering around town and you cannot have a dragon without big drums.
Another view of the Chinese Dragon
Last evening we attended a baptism.  Elder Busselberg said they have been having weekly baptisms for 19 weeks.  We stayed for young mens and young womens (yes they do it on Saturday following baptisms).  George and I were asked to share our testimonies.  The big draw was really our new mission president and his wife.  The Lord prepared them for serving here!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

YEAH--another, yes, carabao picture
Wow (a word I hear a lot) another week has slipped by.  We received a hand delivered invitation on Wednesday from the Bacolod 5th Ward inviting George and me to be “spiritual speakers” at their activity two days later entitled “A Night with the Elderly Year – 6”.  We looked at each other and laughed and said sure, why not.
Some of the young women dressed in their beautiful outfits
Young Men and Young Women dancing at the activity

The young people who decorated our table--it was beautifully done and included carved vegetables!
Friday evening we arrived a little early to see young women in beautiful dresses and young men in ties and jackets (we don’t even see this attire on Sundays).  As we walked in we were greeted with smiles and handshakes.   The decorations were festive and there were about one hundred people there—mostly young.  Wait a minute, weren’t we asked to speak on “Elderly”?  Okay so we did meet about twenty “elderly” that were described in the invitation as “members. . . ages 60 years old and above.  People who usually don’t get to go out with their loved ones or dates during this special day of hearts”.  The young people put on this special event for the older people.  By the end of the evening George and I felt privileged to have this opportunity.  We tweaked our messages, we played games, we were invited to dance, and were entertained by young, energetic and talented people.  Then there was food. . . not a little food but tables of exotic Philippine dishes.  We had to eat (this was not mentioned in the invite).  We oldsters ate before our hosts were allowed to eat dinner.  The best part was when the Laurels did a sketch on sharing the gospel and then in unison and English orated the young women values.  These young people are the future leaders of the Church!

One of our favorite short term missionaries (they are locals who serve as temporary companions) Sister Y went home.  She has served one week missions “for a while” (another common phrase here).  She even chose to spend the holidays on a mission instead of being with her family.  How can we care about so many special people?
Elders Cababat and Fernando pose with us at the airport as they depart after 2-years of service

Thursday evening George and I were invited to go to the departure dinner for two Elders.  They are returning home a few weeks early for school and work.  When I asked Elder Cababat what his plans were when he returned home (he lives near Manila).  He said his sister was meeting him at the airport and he had a “dinner appointment” with his Mom and Dad who were not able to come because of “duty” (they have jobs).  Elder Fernando, a missionary George and I have loved since shortly after we arrived, will be returning to teach Science to 5th grade students.  Friday we (along with Sister Ferrin) took these fine Elders to the airport.  As Shakespeare wrote, “parting is such sweet sorrow”.

Happily married
How do you spend Valentine’s Day in the Philippines?  We went to Valentine's dinner and then a wedding and a baptism with President and Sister Ferrin.  It was a typical Filipino civil wedding that we’ve attended before.  The bishop recites the vows over the pulpit while the couple stands just below him and answers the questions.  He then pronounces them husband and wife and then they sign the marriage papers, along with two witnesses.  Marriage is a significant problem here for those desiring to be baptized—for one; there are no divorces allowed by law (as dictated by the Catholic Church); so many couples separate and find another partner—with no legal means to divorce unless they have a lot of money—then they can get an annulment (regardless of years married; or children), but this is only a solution for the rich.  Others, like the marriage we attended, lived together and had children, but had never married because of the risk and cost to marry.
Cute children
Today we traveled further south with President and Sister Ferrin to the Pontevedra Branch. Once we arrived, George & I were invited to take one of the missionaries; Elder Manu (from New Zealand), and attend a Special Sacrament Meeting in Sua.  We took a young man with us; Gino (who has his missionary papers in) directed us to the home of his grandparents over a long, bumpy, muddy road.  It was a great area with very friendly people.  The man conducting the meeting was barefoot.  Another man who passed the sacrament was also barefoot.  The family and other members kindly welcomed us and made us feel comfortable in their humble home.  We had a wonderful meeting with them.
Elder Manu and some of the attendees before the meeting started in the humble home

Sunday, February 8, 2015

River scene from Candoni--baby carabao on left follows his mother into the river
The best thing that happened this week was the birth of our fifth grandchild; Alexander George Mower on February 6th.  We received a call at 1:01 am February 7th from our son Spencer sharing that little Alex had been born about an hour earlier.  If you can imagine, George slept through the entire call!  Then I had to wait for the pictures to arrive a little while later.  He will join his two older brothers Nathen (7) and Tyler (5) and sister, Kaylee (almost 3).  Stephanie the best daughter-in-law I could ever hope for said, when Kaylee was asked about her brother arriving, she said “he will never come”.   
Little Alex fresh from Heaven
We took our new mission President and Sister Ferrin to a baptism out in the bukid.  They are so excited to meet the missionaries and the fine people living on Negros.  Little did they realize this was an all day adventure as we traveled south and into the mountains to Candoni.  Elder DeVera went home a few months ago and his last area was Candoni.  Now his first cousin is serving in the same area.  The new Elder DeVera was on his third day in the mission when he had the opportunity to baptize three candidates in the beautiful slow moving river.
Little girls washing their clothes in the river
River baptism at Candoni with President & Sister Ferrin
Today we traveled south to Pulupandan and attended two sacrament meetings.  The members were so happy to have visitors.  It was kind of nice to sit back a bit and have President and Sister Ferrin in the limelight.  I did get to be the pianist at one meeting and we were able to share our testimonies at the second sacrament meeting. 
Friendly members welcoming to Pulupandan Ward with Sister Ferrin
We were so close to the ocean, we decided to get a closer look.  Unfortunately the truck became stuck in the deep dry sand (I think we lost our job of driving President and Sister Ferrin around).  No worries, the barangay men came and with dried palms, a heavy boat rope and a jeepney we were pulled out.  Sister Ferrin and I were walking and a man asked what was going on, we said the truck was stuck.  He questioned, why would anybody drive in the deep sand?  Hmmmm, I wonder!
Rescued with a little help from our friends

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Yeah--a lady carabao driver--and the carabao looks happier!

The Philippines Bacolod Mission has had BIG changes.  On Sunday, January 18, President and Sister Lopez left the mission to seek medical attention in the US.  We later learned they would not be able to return to finish the last few months of their mission.  On Monday, January 26, President and Sister Ferrin were set apart as our new mission president and sister.  George and I were grateful and happy to receive this news and looked forward to their arrival on Wednesday, January 28. 

Maskara dancers at airport welcoming new arrivals
Looking back, Elder and Sister Ferrin were the first to meet us late at night when we arrived in Manila many months ago.  They found us among hundreds of arriving passengers and took us to the MTC and showed us around the next day before returning us to the airport to come to Bacolod.  They were busy people; he was serving as advisor to the missions in the Philippines and Asia and Sister Ferrin wore many hats helping in the area.  But they took time to make us feel welcome and comfortable.  They are gracious and humble servants, excited to be here.  In the few days since they have arrived with 20 new missionaries they have worked every day and haven’t had time to even settle in.  I am tired from just trying to keep up with them!

Newly arrived missionaries along with President & Sister Ferrin
This was the week for missionaries to go home (23) and new arrivals.  The area presidency arranged for a special visit of Elder and Sister Echo Hawk to come and help with the departing missionaries activities.  We decided to keep it a surprise!  Although the missionaries were excited to return home, I know they were disappointed that President and Sister Lopez were not here.  Elder and Sister Mower and the counselor in the mission presidency was not what they were hoping for.  On Tuesday morning we picked up Elder and Sister Echo Hawk from the airport and the departing missionaries had a memorable exit interview and evening with a general authority and his wife. 

Departing missionaries with Elder & Sister Echo Hawk--WE LOVE THESE MISSIONARIES!
We had never been to a departing missionary dinner, but George and I attended and will treasure this time being with missionaries we have grown to know and love.  The best part; testimony meeting.
Sister Pattillo leading Sisters into Barangay 39

Sister Echo Hawk asked that we arrange for Sisters to take us to visit new members, investigators and less active members.  We entered Barangay 39 in Bacolod and traveled down a narrow trail into a world I never imagined before coming to the Philippines.  This particular area had experienced an electrical fire that destroyed many homes a few months earlier.  Sister Rose’s home consisted of a plywood floor and walls approximately 6 by 10 feet.  No glass in the windows, no running water, fabric dividing the living area from a bed for their family of 5.  We were welcomed into the humble homes and children followed and entered with us.  The Sisters shared short lessons for the families we visited and we always sang and prayed.  It was a great experience.
Sister Rose and her twins standing in their front doorway

We have seen the hand of the Lord in a marvelous way during the past few weeks.  As one beloved Mission President and his wife quietly departed and another came in their place, the missionaries continued to show forth great faith in expanding this great work.  We have seen a great miracle in the life of our dear President Lopez as his life has been touched by an outpouring of faith and prayers.  And we have been blessed with the addition of another wonderful Mission President and his wife who were prepared to serve here.  We know that this is His great work on the earth.