Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yeah, another of our favorite carabao pictures
Another week has slipped by and today was my favorite day of the week.  I wanted to travel to Candumarao this weekend to visit a missionary, but I also knew it meant leaving early and traveling a long distance along the same narrow roads as those walking and riding bicycles, people and animals on sicads, trikes, buses of several varieties, trucks etc.  We turned off towards Candumarao and George said why don’t we just stop at Isabela and partake of the sacrament (as our directions to this small barangay were pretty sketchy).  We arrived just as they were singing the opening hymn so we sat towards the back of the chapel.  After the sacrament was passed we thought we would slip out and try to find our destination, but the counselor stood up and welcomed “the missionary couple, Elder and Sister Mower” and invited us to come up and sit on the stand and bear our testimonies!  As George was speaking, a toddler came over to him and hugged his leg.  I hope I will never forget the great faith of the people here and their kindness to us.

Workers out in the rice fields
After the meeting the stake president who we have met before, he said he was hoping to go to the Candumarao Group today, the place we were looking for!  He said it was the desire of his heart to attend Candumarao today, but was unable to make the proper arrangements.  He and a new member of the high council came with us and showed us the way.  We went as far as we could by truck and then we followed a dirt path to the Elders house, a cement house among the bamboo and plywood structures.   As we walked people came out of their homes to greet us; “Maayong aga (good morning) Elder, Maayong aga Sister”.  We arrived just as sacrament meeting was preparing to start and we were again asked to share our testimonies.  The spirit was so strong; 74 people were at Church today.  Just like a regular ward but sitting in a cement house of the Elders out in the bukid (Jungle).  So in the end, my worry of the travel turned out to be a wonderful experience and I got to visit the Missionary!
Footpath to Candumarao
Partial picture of the attendees at Candumarao meeting

Saturday, we had the opportunity of attending the baptism of a young ‘FilAm’ (Filipino-American)—he is Filipino, but born and raised in the U.S.  His parents are working abroad, so he and his brother were sent to live with their Lola (grandmother) and Lolo (grandfather) to be raised.  The grandparents retired from their work in the U.S. a few years ago, have settled in Bacolod and have brought some orphan girls into their home to raise (very good people).  He only speaks English, so the ward is so kind to go out of their way to speak English in Primary.  

Tristan and his family at baptism
We stopped for these ducks crossing the road
Sunday morning along our travel route

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Carabao cart along the National Highway

Every 6-weeks we have scheduled departures and new arrivals—bringing with it constant change in the Mission.  Ten missionaries left Wednesday morning and eleven arrived shortly after (on the same plane).  There were also two returning missionaries who reside in the Mission Districts (one came by boat).  How wonderful to see the reunion of families; it makes me a little “trunky”.  One returning Elder was the branch president in his small branch before he left to serve his mission.
Sisters Gamit, Menguito, and Davenport on the way to the airport
George and I were thinking about how we would love to be at the departing missionary testimony meeting.  This experience is usually just for the missionaries and the Mission President and his wife.  We have known these fine Elders and Sisters for a long time and we love them.  We were asked to arrive at 7, following the dinner and testimony meeting, but when we arrived at the appointed hour, the testimony meeting had just started and we were invited to stay.  What a sacred experience to feel the spirit and feast upon the powerful testimonies that were shared by these valiant missionaries who have served and struggled and sacrificed for the Gospel's sake.
Wonderful new arriving missionaries
A few highlights of departing missionaries:  One Elder went home a couple of months ago to attend the funeral of his father.  He had the option of not returning; he said I desire to finish my mission.  One Sister went home for a few months to help her mother who was ill; George and I picked her up at the airport when she returned ready to serve for another 9-months.  One Elder, through good times and hard times; we never saw him without a smile and the desire to carry on.  One Sister was loved by every companion she had.  One of her last companions who is new in the mission cried when she was transferred, because this Sister was so helpful and caring in helping her to adjust to missionary life.  What wonderful young missionaries we have the privilege to work with!
Busy office during new arrival transfers
A Brother, who was the first Stake President in Bacolod and his wife came to the mission office this weekend shared the history of the church in Bacolod.  They are pioneers on the island of Negros!  The Sister told us that when the missionaries knocked on their door back in the 70s, she was taken aback a little by seeing two white men in dress suits at her front door and they asked for her father.  Suits are very unusual attire for this warm humid climate as well as white clean cut men!   She asked if they were from the “CIA”.  They spoke only in English and were searching for leaders to organize the first branch in the Church in her area.
Scenery from along the National Highway
Today we attended our 70th different sacrament meeting since arriving in the Mission.  We are now traveling longer distances to attend these wards/branches.  We left our home at 6:30 a.m.  When we first arrived in the Mission, President Lopez assigned us to travel to a different sacrament meeting every week. This assignment has been a great blessing to us.  We have grown to love the members; many of whom sacrifice so much to attend Church and to serve.  They are humble people who are grateful for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Picture from behind carabao cart (shown above)
Typical trike with people hanging on from all directions

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rocky Ride!
Monday – rain and wind

Tuesday – rain and wind

Wednesday – rain and wind

Thursday – rain and wind

Friday – rain and wind

Saturday – I see a little sun!

Sunday – Warm, sunny with billowy clouds
We start our journey along the trail
Elder Agbuya and Elder Archuleta and four others climbed into the truck to start the first leg of our journey. The weather was perfect to travel to a special sacrament meeting near EB Magalona today.  Sitting here writing, I feel thankful we have been watched over one more time as we have traveled a questionable road.  Elder Agbuya texted late last night making sure we would be able to walk for 15 – 20 minutes in mud and across a couple of bamboo bridges.  We looked at each other and thought sure, why not?  What we didn’t know was the road to get to the area big enough to leave the truck was a narrow rocky dirt road, with deep drop offs on each side.  With the recent rains, the ground was soft.
Friendly man we met along the trail
A "fisherfolk" bringing his nets home to repair
The walk was kind of fun as we wound through several small communities whose livelihood is the ocean. People along the way greeted us with their beautiful smiles.  George was like the Pied Piper, he brought lots of biscuits to share; the news traveled quickly among the children.
Karen walking across one of many bamboo bridges we would encounter
The saltly air was warm and humid.  The ground we traveled was sandy with lots of broken shells.  We passed many fish ponds; where fish are raised for food.  We watched those harvesting shrimp and crab.  We passed an oyster farm (just for eating), and many “fisherfolk” as they are called here, were repairing fishing nets.
Bamboo house where meeting was held
We arrived at the small bamboo house that would eventually hold over 40 of us; members and investigators.  As they planned the meeting, they said, Elder and Sister Mower, you will be our speakers today :-).  We will miss these experiences.
Filipinos are very enterprising--here's a baby swing
Our walk back to the truck along the beach

Teenage boys lounging in a tree along the beach

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Young Carabao relaxing in a stream while his mother bathes
We love President and Sister Ferrin--they helped us to enjoy our mission!
We bid farewell to President and Sister Ferrin this week.  Before they left we enjoyed long talks over good food, and reminisced how quickly 5 months have come and gone.  Of course we had one last stop at Kultura (where Philippine products are sold) so Sister Ferrin could stock up.  George and I have enjoyed the association of these two great people who came off the plane the last day in January with a new “batch” smiling and never stopped running until they left Wednesday afternoon.  We will miss them!  They were scheduled to arrive home in time to celebrate the 4th of July in Utah.
President & Sister Barredo--both are from Bacolod
President and Sister Barredo arrived Wednesday afternoon in the mission office.  Their daughter Therese is here and has been called to serve in the Fresno California mission.  She is waiting for her visa.  Carlo, their son 17 year-old son, is going to school at St. Augustine College in Bacolod and has been here since June 1st when school began.   He plans to serve a mission when he turns 18 next year.  They also have another son who is currently serving a mission in the Philippines.

The Barredo’s are originally from Bacolod; they were born and raised here and speak the language!  We attended one of the “meet the President” gatherings and they were warmly received.  I have had many missionaries tell me of their love for the new President already!
Joemir was asked to share his testimony, but was a little shy
Yesterday we went to a baptism in Victorias.  The mother was baptized a “while ago” and dad and son were baptized.   We loved when the 10 year old boy bore his testimony, hiding behind the center piece on the table.  Victorias is a community where George’s friend Scott Gamble served part of his mission many years ago.  Today we met a Sister from the Fernandez family who remembered “Elder Gamble” and told us at that time, they traveled to Bacolod to attend church (about 30 miles).  Now they have their own beautiful church to meet in.
Even after his cover was blown
The rainy season is upon us.  Although tropical storm Linfa is centered closer to Manila, we have been the benefactor of continued rain.  It has rained, it has poured, and the wind has blown every day for the last couple of weeks.  In our area the pooling rains are quickly lapped up by the thirsty ground.  But we have witnessed flooding in lower areas.  Children enjoy the muddy deep waters for fun.   We are blessed to have a good roof over our heads.
Rainy days
This week our house keeper Joebert told me we “have kitties”.  I told him, yes I know, they are the neighbors cats and they hang around here a lot.  Last evening I could hear meowing.   The pregnant yellow tabby is no longer expecting; she has had her kittens in what they call the “dirty kitchen”* outside of our indoor kitchen.   

*Dirty kitchens are outside of houses; we understand it is so cooking fragrant foods do not smell up your house.  Walking every morning in this neighborhood, many people use their outside kitchens.  The smells are strong and lingering. . garlic fish anyone?
Sister Montemayor, one of our missionary nurses, giving a flu shot to Elder Molina