Sunday, May 31, 2015

Yeah--another carabao sited on our way back from the school visit

Months ago President Lopez asked us to help coordinate an effort with a former missionary from the Philippines Bacolod Mission in the US.  His effort was to raise money for the benefit of some poor schools in the Mission.  President Lopez recommended the Gawahon School in the Victorias area—up in a ‘bukid’ (remote) area of the Mission.  The school has allowed the Church to hold Special Sacraments Meetings every Sunday for months.

Visit to school supply store
This week we were able to participate in delivering the supplies to the school.  We had previously gone to a school supply store and with Sister Ferrin’s assistance (and experience as a teacher), selected items for each of the over 300 children; paper, pencils, crayons, markers and a carrying bag along with some wish list classroom items including basketballs, maps, teacher supplies, etc.

Friendly Gawahon School children lined up by grade

Monday morning George and I took President Santilan (counselor in the mission presidency and a big wig in local school hierarchy) and the two Elders serving in the area.  President and Sister Ferrin and Elder and Sister Green traveled separately.  We should have figured out something special was planned, as the Bishop of the Victorias ward texted a couple of times, asking where we were.  The delivery truck followed us up, but they had deliveries to make along the way—causing us to be later than expected.

Our caravan brought interested looks as we traveled up the narrow winding road to the community in the mountains.  But when we arrived at the school, it was not a simple drop off as we had thought.   Fathers came out to the truck and helped carry boxes of supplies to the center of the school yard.  All 7 teachers were there along with the PTA and 150 or more school aged children lined up to greet us (along with their families).

We were welcomed as honored guests.  The spectators were delighted as they watched many of the boxes were opened.   The Principal, Gilly Vargas, said over and over, the “Lord loves us”.  Mrs. Vargas picked up the microphone (loud is better here) and said, “We need to pray”.  I folded my arms and bowed my head and closed my eyes and a few seconds later, a recording of ‘How Great Thou Art’ (country western style) blared through the speakers.  I looked up and everyone was singing.  We sang every verse. 

Children expressing their thanks
The children also had prepared a special musical expression of thanks for the occasion.  It was a wonderful experience and a reminder of the kind and grateful people we have the privilege of associating with here.
Elders Carver, Minson, Asuncion, Shumway, Pack & Walters enjoying lots of pizza

Tuesday evening we were invited to the departure dinner for Elder Carver.  He has lost around 60 pounds on his mission and he has been in outlying areas for months of his mission.  He chose to go to Yellow Cab Pizza as he said he has not had any pizza on his mission.  Others going home this week and part of his batch along with their companions joined us.  How many pizzas can 7 Elders eat (along with Strawberry milkshakes)?  A lot!  They laughed and said a meal really wasn’t complete without rice.
New member in his sikad

Saturday, we attended Sister Judd’s last baptism.  She is going home this week.  She was one of the first missionaries we met when we arrived here.  The man that was baptized has been investigating the Church for over 2 years and comes to Church regularly.  We have even seen him before at baptisms.  Sister Judd says he knows the gospel well and helps them in missionary work.
Elders Cabada & Graves standing in front of a monument made of tires

We traveled south and inland today; I never tire of seeing the lush green landscape.  We were told they have been having daily rains and the flora is breathtaking.  We attended Church in La Castellana.  The branch has a beautiful new chapel that will be dedicated in a couple of weeks.  Today was Elder David’s last Sunday before returning home.  He is meeting his family and ward at the Manila Temple on Wednesday.  He bore a powerful testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Today we are not having a brown out (no electricity); but since last evening we have had no running water.  We are assured all will be well by 6:30 pm.  In the Philippines we always keep a minimum of 10 gallons of water on hand for times like this. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Beautiful flowers outside our 'cottage'

Tuesday, George and I had our last visit with the Deyro family before their departure to prepare for their mission.  I knew the day would come, but I didn’t look forward to the time when Sister Deyro would actually leave Bacolod.  Even with boxes everywhere (the packers were on break) and trying to prepare every needful thing, my dear friend was gracious.
Sister Deyro & me
Brother and Sister Deyro will become the new mission President/Sister of the Philippines Urdaneta Mission July 1st.  From the first time we met the Deyros, a few days after arriving here, she has demonstrated Christ like attributes and service.  She has not only been a friend, but she has given of her time to help many of the missionaries serving in the Bacolod Mission and prospective missionaries within the mission by doing pre-mission physicals—all at no charge.  She had a S.M.A.L.L. clinic that was put together on their front porch and where she also served the community.  The missionaries knew Sister Deyro as Dr. Deyro.  We are thankful for our association and the great times we have shared. . until we meet again!
Fish anyone?
Busy market
Seamstress and cute helper working on a treadle machine
Sister Ferrin & son shopping
Friday, President and Sister Ferrin came to the mission office with their visiting son, daughter in law and 15 month old daughter and Vivian (the mission home housekeeper).  The President had work to do, but Sister Ferrin invited me to come along to the Central Market for some shopping.  Vivian came along as our ‘haggler’.  I would never go there by myself. . but it was an fun adventure!  It would be easy to get lost in the menagerie of treasures.  We did come out once on the wrong street, but eventually found the right exit.  If they don’t have it, you don’t need it!  We followed narrow paths through lots of fragrant food, lots of people, baskets, wood, jewelry, clothes, shells, etc.  It was a warm, humid day with no air conditioning or fans and the temps in the 90’s with the same humidity.
Meet the Mormons at Robinsons Cinema on Friday & Saturday
This weekend the film “Meet the Mormons” played at one of the malls.  The film was shown free of charge.  Missionaries with name badges were invited not to be there, so no intimidation would be felt.  We heard today, the showings were full and they brought in plastic chairs to accommodate everyone.

We went to a baptism of a young man yesterday.  He said he had had friends who were members of the Church and in 2012 they invited him to an activity.  He remarked, he liked how he felt when he came to the Church and he eventually gained a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ.  He bore a beautiful testimony and some of it was in English!
Funeral procession along the national highway--funerals are usually on Sundays
I enjoy traveling along the National Highway (for the most part).  I will never get used to vehicles coming towards us in our lane and flashing their lights. . I guess to tell us to get out of the way.  But I do love the small communities that dot the highway.  We see people carrying buckets of water to their houses and people looking over their catch of fish.  People gathering greens and purchasing rice for later and fires cooking breakfast.  Motorbikes with more than 2 people are the norm; I think the most people I have seen on a scooter was a driver with two young boys sitting in front of him.  Behind the driver was a mother with her young baby and behind her another man.  No protective gear; just shorts and flip flops.  There are a lot of old Catholic Churches and they play their bells on Sunday morning.  In front of the Churches are flowers and treats for sale.  It is so green with the rain that is starting to fall.  In some of the rice fields today farmers were plowing the fields of water with their hard working caribou. 

Today we went to Masville; a branch of about 100 people, some 60 km from our house.  There were three newly returned missionaries with big callings.  One was District Young Men’s President, one was the 1st Counselor in the Branch Young Women’s Presidency and we sustained the new 1st Counselor in the District Young Women’s Presidency.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sugar can truck along the highway--it's a BIG business on our island of Negros Occidental
Bishop Plaza invited George and me by text to attend their son’s missionary devotional.  Foi Lole is leaving this week for his mission in Urdaneta.  Bishop Plaza is the bishop of a small ward in south Bacolod, Paglaum.  George questioned what would you like us to do?  The reply; “Oh, just talk”.  So we did and we were the ones that benefited by being included in this special time including a pasta dinner, sweet bread and cake for 50+ people.
The wonderful Plaza family
Texting is a popular way of communicating. . I have even become an expert.  Friday I received a text inviting us to a baptism.  Yes, we often go to baptisms, but this invitation came from Vengie Salmorin.  We went to his wife’s and oldest daughter’s baptism last summer.  His sweet wife was 8 months pregnant and wanted to be baptized before her son, Vince Michael was born (she reminded me last night Vince Michael was named by a missionary).  Vengie was baptized a few weeks later.  We have met them several times over the last months. Vengie is a ward missionary, Elder’s Quorum Secretary and a home teacher and last night he baptized Daniella, their 8 year old daughter.  Their family is preparing to go to Cebu Temple in December to be sealed together!
The wonderful Salmorin Family + Friends
We attended Zone Conference on Thursday.   Zone Leaders, Sister Team Leaders, the APs, and President and Sister Ferrin shared insights in helping us be better missionaries.  The best part: just being with the missionaries oh and I can’t forget the opening hymn sung by a fairly new group of “polys” that sang in “Tongan”. . I didn’t even recognize the music, but they sure can harmonize.
Sister Ve'ehala at Zone Conference

Sister Ortiz
Sister Narisma

Elders enjoying ice cream

Elder Lopez
Arriving home this evening, we heard voices nearby.  There is a high block wall across the street.  Behind this wall is a community where sugar cane field workers live with their families.  There was one person trying to loosen coconuts with a long stick and another person holding a large net trying to catch them as they fell.  They actually giggled when I asked if I could take their pictures.
Enjoying coconut harvesting
Our daughter Stephanie’s shared that her husband Josh’s dad passed away earlier today; sending our love and condolences to the Grimes family.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lots of workers with loaded sacks piled high

I was counting 40 pesos; the cost to park at the airport.  It is a good time to get rid of 1 peso coins (P44=$1.00).  I was counting the pesos and I saw one that looked a little different; it was a US quarter.  Who would imagine, someone gave me a US quarter as a peso.  I tell this story, because my mother always looked for loose coins on the ground and even saved them in a little bank.  Shortly after she died my three sisters and I kept finding coins and we would laugh and cry as we were reminded of our sweet Mom.  A while ago I found a dime on a dirt path in a Barangay and now the quarter in my change.  And yes, I was reminded of my Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day!
Member vehicles parked at La Carlota building
We traveled to a small branch in Ayungon.  It is a beautiful area full of luscious green rice fields.  On the narrow road plastic tarps were placed intermittently with rice drying (against the law).  Hungry birds enjoyed the bounty.  We later traveled to La Carlota and attended a branch sacrament meeting.  It is customary for women to greet women cheek to cheek and a kiss along with a handshake.  I don’t think I have ever been kissed so many times.  One mother asked if her toddler son could kiss me, I bent down and he kissed my forehead.
Sister Lisaca posing with her large family at Mission Office
We went to the airport to pick up a district missionary returning from her mission.  Actually there were 5 returning missionaries on the flight.  I love to see reunions.  Sister Lisaca had to wait a little longer to see her family as we couldn’t fit them all in the truck to come to the airport.  She said she had had some health problems while serving, but she was reminded of Sister Brown, one of her companions, who had an "artificial" leg; she was a very hard worker and walked long distances and never complained about her leg—even though she knew it hurt.  She said her example encouraged her to try harder!
Beautiful sweet Sisters at Ayungon Branch
There was Missionary Leadership Council this week.  It was a spiritual feast!  The APs Elder Asuncion and Elder Pack shared a great message on being self reliant.  And then the Supply Elders, Elder Fraire and Elder Alisbo talked about serving as the Savior has demonstrated.   We are so thankful that we can be here with the Bacolod Missionaries.  I looked at those attending and realized how much George and I love these young servants.  Many of those attending we were with on their first day in Bacolod.  I hope they and we, for that matter, can remember the feelings we had at the meeting and later when we return home.
Sisters Mower, Dioniso, and Gamit
We enjoyed some one on one time with Sister Gamit (who is a trainer) and Sister Dionisio (GeeO-nee-seeO), who has been in Bacolod about 2 ½ weeks.  Some missionaries serve because of their strong testimonies and a desire to serve their Heavenly Father.  One sister told of her parents dying and her brother who was going to support her financially for her mission also died.  A family in her ward took her in and is helping her.
Breakfast cereal of champions!
George found my favorite cereal that has been out of stock for at least 9 months, Cheerios.  Okay at $9.40 a box, they are pretty pricy. . but worth it!
Pothos plants growing wild in the Philippines
Our Ward Youth sent us a poster with wonderful comments wishing us well--THANK YOU!