Sunday, March 29, 2015

Beautiful view of a rainbow over Cebu taken from our hotel window

I sat down on the Church bench this morning and there was a young girl sitting alone.  She scooted closer to me.  Her name is Alex; short for Alexandra, she is twelve years old and comes to Church every Sunday by herself.  Her mom lives in Manila and she lives with her Lola (grandmother).  She was baptized in November of 2014.  She didn’t have her own scriptures so George wrote his testimony in some scriptures we had picked up in Cebu and gave them to her.  We later drove her home with the Sister missionaries and invited her Lola to come to Church next Sunday.  In the end Alex was my shadow and we hugged and she kissed my cheek as we prepared to leave.  I pray she can continue to be strong.
Karen with Alex
Alex with her Lola in front of their home
Elders Celebrado and Paskett had invited us to attend the organization of the Cadiz 2nd Ward.  The Cadiz branch was organized back in 1992.  Today it was standing room only.  The branch/ward choir sang on key and even with some harmony—the best choir we have heard here.  It was an emotional time as their Branch President was released and a new Bishop and Counselor were sustained.

On Saturday we drove to Fabrica, Elder Bragas and Elder Kindred invited us to their baptisms and to speak later at a missionary fireside on the Restoration.  After greeting many members and investigators and looking out among the 50 plus in the congregation, I realized how much we love and care about the Filipino people.  When we left to return back to Bacolod many of the people came out to wave.
View of Cebu City from the air
With Kim Ellison in front of Cebu Temple--we arrived in the Philippines 1-year ago
Thursday morning George and I flew to Cebu to the Temple and met up with our “batch mate” Kim Ellison.  She serves as nurse specialist in the Cebu Mission.  We had fun catching up and comparing notes.  Yes I still had my phone and could easily take calls if needed.   She took time from her schedule to attend the temple with us.  We also met Elder Asuncion’s (one of the Bacolod missionaries) parents; Brother Asuncion is the temple engineer for the Cebu Temple and he took us on a tour through the underground tunnel connecting the utility building with the Temple—and where they recently had secretly removed David Archuleta from the Temple when it was crowded with onlookers waiting to see him.  We also saw where the original 12-foot statue of Angel Moroni is being stored.  It was damaged in a recent typhoon about a year and a half ago and subsequently replaced and repaired and kept as a spare.
With Brother & Sister Asuncion
One thing I really liked about this trip was the large soaking tub, not Filipino size, in an American style hotel and warm water.  In the short time we were there, I took two baths.  Hmmmm it was great and will last me for 6-months.  George enjoyed taking long, warm showers.

We discovered this enterprising young man gathering coconuts
Worshippers gathering for Palm Sunday in Victorias today

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Carabao from our travels today

Beautiful countryside in Moises Padilla

We arrived in Moises Padilla shortly before 9:00 this morning after a two hour drive.  We brought an Elder to pick up a few things before attending Church at the small branch.  The door was wide open to a house that had been converted to serve as a place of worship.  The windows were all open and fans hanging from the ceiling whirled, moving the warm moist air.  We could hear children singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.  There were a few sisters having a lesson for Relief Society.  The youth were upstairs having class and members of the priesthood were still getting organized.  Everything stopped as we walked in and everyone in the branch came and greeted us and shook our hands.

Children singing with their leaders
I went to Relief Society where they were having a lesson in Tagalog language, I read along in English.  It was the lesson “Living Joyfully in Troubled Times”.  The lesson is about after World War II and the challenges the people faced.  When they were done reading through the lesson, one sister turned to me and asked, “Please teach us Sister”.  The spirit was strong as I looked into their faces, my sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I asked the sister who asked me this poignant question, “Are you the Relief Society President?   She answered no, that she was the 1st Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency and also the Seminary Teacher.  She and her daughter were baptized last October.  One sister was baptized yesterday and we were able to witness her confirmation.  The third sister was baptized in January of this year; she has four young children.  They spoke little English, but we communicated the best we could.  They shared their joys and hardships and their faith in Jesus Christ.
Sweet Sisters in Moises Padilla Branch Relief Society
As Sacrament meeting was starting, George leaned over and told me they had asked me to play the piano . . a little Casio keyboard and then we would give a talk.  I walked over to the keyboard and the children were sitting so close to me, it was difficult to play the music on the strange keyboard.  They didn’t seem to know the tune of a couple of the hymns so I even sang along to try and help.  We later learned no one plays the piano so music is just expressed.

Elders Pack and Pierce
I contact new missionaries, to see how they are doing.  I loved Elder Pierce’s comment regarding the big culture change.  He said, “It is different, but it is where Heavenly Father wants and needs me, so I know I can do it with his help”.  We love working with the missionaries, as they use the saying and I agree, “you are the best!”.

Example of Filipino resourcefulness--reusing a juice bottle as a sprinkler :-)
Notice 4 riders on the motorbike--and the busy traffic we encounter

Sunday, March 15, 2015

You guessed it--a carabao sighting in Manapla!
EJ, Brother John, Elder Shumway and Elder Minson
Today we traveled south to Pulupandan.  We have been here before, but wanted to attend the baptism of EJ a 17 year old we met several weeks ago.  She has been coming to Church for almost a year and has a testimony of Jesus Christ.  Her dad signed the baptismal consent a couple of days ago.  When we walked up to the entrance of the 2 story Church, there was an older lady sitting on the ground.  She looked up and smiled and greeted us.  A chair was brought to the entrance and I helped her get up and comfortable in the chair.  She spoke no English, but chattered away.  She used a pvc pipe as her support and had flip flops on.  Later I helped her climb the 20 steps to get up to the chapel.  I felt the spirit as we carefully climbed each step.  Two daughters of God from different cultures, arm in arm with a common thread.
Ernesto in his new wheelchair
Another experience from this small ward, Ernesto a young man has no use of his legs and needed a wheelchair.  A private group of church members had arranged a way for members to get wheelchairs if needed.  It does require 40 hours of service; the ward did the service for this young man and he was in his new chair today.  With his new freedom, he was able to bless the sacrament, give two confirmation blessings and offer a pray at the baptism.
Island between Manila and Negros Occidental
Outside the Area Offices--across the street from the (closed) Manila Temple
Elder Gang (serving in Baguio) and Elder Gang (ours)
Yesterday George and I along with 19 American missionaries flew to Manila to fulfill emigration requirements.  23 million people live in the Manila area and although traffic is crazy, I think I have been here a long time, as I thought the traffic wasn’t that bad.  What is abnormal about traffic from 4 different directions trying to cross, merge and turn without any direction control - all at the same time?  It turned out to be a great day and although I think some missionaries were disappointed that the temple was closed, they were able to meet “batch” mates (trained in the MTC together) from other missions.  My favorite hook up was Elder Gang from our mission meeting his twin brother serving in the Baguio mission.
Hallowed ground
Since the Manila Temple was closed, we had the opportunity to go to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.  Many Americans gave their lives serving in the Pacific Region during World War II.  It was very humbling to walk on ground hallowed by the burial place of some 17,000 brave men and 36,000 men and women lost at sea or missing in action whose names were inscribed on walls of the memorial who had given their lives to fight tyranny and oppression.  Many young men who lost their lives in service Our Country during WW II never had the opportunity to enjoy many of the blessings that we enjoy, or families to raise, and were buried in a foreign land far away from their home.  Humbling indeed. 
Some of the missionaries:  (back:) Elders Nielsen, Archuleta, Gang, Minson, Powell, Carver, Pack, Walters (front:) Elder Turley, Sisters Judd, Davenport, Snow
This is also the place where Elder Gordon B. Hinckley rededicated the Philippines for missionary work in 1961.  We gathered and read about this experience and heard some of the words of the dedicatory prayer and felt the Spirit of the Lord and recognized the realization of many of the blessings that have already occurred.
March 11 Departures
It was departure and arrival week.  Twenty seasoned Elders and Sisters have returned home and seventeen new missionaries are embarking as servants with a message of Jesus Christ.  Our heart strings were tugged as our missionaries left and happy as we met and got to know the new arrivals.  The incoming group included 11 missionaries from the Philippines and 6 Americans.
March 11 Arrivals
We brought two sweet Filipina Sister Missionaries to the airport.  In addition to being “batch” mates, they are both converts to the Church and best friends from Mindanao.  Their Branch President supported them on their missions.  Sister Turtal sang “I Need Thee Every Hour” on the way in Ilonggo and it touched our hearts.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

We WELCOME our new grandson; Jaden Matthew Grimes

We certainly have been blessed while here in the Philippines Bacolod Mission.  On our March 6th, which was March 5th in Tucson, Arizona, little Jaden Matthew Grimes joined our family!  Although we were far apart, we were updated and got to talk and see Stephanie and Josh and Jaden soon after his birth.  As our daughter reminded us, he was “evicted” with a little help from the medical community ;-).  George and I celebrated at O Hotel, a favorite place for us to eat.  We enjoyed salmon, mashed potatoes and a fruit/greens salad mmmmmm for P760 (less than $20 US dollars).

This week two of the Zone conferences were held at the Galo Chapel next to the mission office as the mission home is currently being refurbished.  We were able to visit with the missionaries during their lunch break and spent one afternoon hearing the well prepared lessons by zone leaders, APs and President and Sister Ferrin.  We need to be a “FOB” as the APs instructed us. . faithful and obedient!

George enjoyed taking a “Pulis officer” to lunch (who invited his superior; the Pulis Station Chief to join us).  I tagged along.  George had met him last week and liked him so much he said, let’s invite him to lunch.  We invited Elder Asuncion to come with us (he is one of 3 Supply Elders) as an interpreter, if needed.  We talked about driving in traffic, guns, and the Gospel--it doesn't get any better than that!  In the end they both gave their contact information to be referrals desiring to know about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Pulis were very friendly and interested in our purpose and curious about the US and we were interested in getting to know them.
Lots of pictures after the wedding
The happy wedding couple
Lot's of great food for the wedding celebration
Yesterday was President and Sister Ferrin’s 41st wedding anniversary. . . what better way to celebrate than by going to a wedding and a baptism!  We drove with them to the EB Magalona Chapel where the ward was there to support this about to be married couple on their special day.  After the ceremony there was lots of spaghetti; a food often used for celebrations here and mango float and food items that I cannot pronounce.  It wouldn’t be a party without glass bottles of coke and orange.

Today we finally made it to Valladollid a seaside area south of Bacolod.  We have started out here more than once and ended up elsewhere.  It was the perfect day to be here.  We heard Elder Howell share his testimony.  If I wasn’t looking at him, I would have thought it was a local because he spoke Ilonggo so fluently.  I think I understood about 10 words in his ten minute message.  He is going home Wednesday!  It is that time again.

Flower market
Karen got some flowers this week from an admirer ;-)