Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week 98

July 22, 2012

Well, it must be time to fly home. We have no more cold cereal and I just used my last packet of Crystal Light. Thanks Kim for keeping me well stocked in drinks. We certainly have many emotions right now. This will be our final letter from the Philippines. 

We have had many opportunities to reflect back on the past 23 months. We have been blessed in many ways and we know that our family has been blessed also. We sometimes felt that we left you in times of your need and that we should have been there next to you to help you. Each of you has been through a lot of challenges. We understand that. We hope that you have felt our love and prayers for you. We may not have been with you in person but we hope you felt that we never left you completely alone. We have missed a baptism, two baby blessings, lots of birthdays, many blessings of comfort and health, just talking out problems and many hugs. We are sorry that we could not be a direct part of that but we trust in our Heavenly Father and He will make everything right. Each of you has been made stronger as you have had to face those challenges in your own lives.

In many ways this past week has been a blur. Our Zone Meeting on Tuesday was excellent. Our lunch with the missionaries was memorable. We love our missionaries. We made it to the beach to see the sunrise – this was another tender mercy – to have a clear sky in the middle of many days of rain and clouds. It is always good to see the sun! 

We finished off the many things on our checklist. We hope we have not left any loose threads hanging for the new senior couple. We know that Heavenly Father will bless them and we know they will do much more than we ever did here. We hope that we have laid a firm foundation upon which they can build.  

We arrived in Manila on Thursday afternoon to allow us to get everything ready for the trip back home. It was difficult to pack since both of us had already sent one suitcase back early to the mission home. We are only allowed one bag on the flight to and from Palawan so we had to send two of our bags over earlier in the month with our Zone Leaders. Then we had the task of packing everything again to make sure that we made the weight limit and to see if everything would fit into the bags. This is the hard part!

It wouldn’t be the Philippines unless we went out like we came in – in a typhoon. The rain has been falling steady here in Manila since Thursday afternoon. Many of the streets here are flooded. On Saturday afternoon we took the Petersons to the airport for their return trip to Palawan. We came back to the mission home by a different route and found ourselves in about 2 feet of water. All we could do was just ‘drive on’ and hope that the car would not stall. There were some moments of high anxiety but we made it and the inside of the car stayed dry. 

Friday was a very special day for us. The Temple Session was the best. We love being in the Temple with those that we love. We have always felt that way. It was so reminiscent of those days when all of our family was in the Temple together. We hope to always have that feeling. As President Benson said, “We do not want any empty chairs in heaven.” After our Temple Session, President and Sister Stucki treated the senior couples to dinner and then we went back to the Mission Home for a testimony meeting. This has been a wonderful week.  

The Branch President in San Gabriel Branch texted us and invited us to speak in their Branch on Sunday July 22. Somehow we made it back to Bulihan and San Gabriel to attend their meetings and say goodbye once again. This was not an easy thing to do. We spoke in both Bulihan and San Gabriel Branches. The Branch President in San Gabriel, President Lazo, and I have become good friends. He is a very good Branch President and in my opinion, a ‘Stake President in training’. We pray that San Gabriel District will become a Stake in their next District Conference. 

So we say goodbye to many people and friends. We have experienced many wonderful things. Heavenly Father has opened our eyes to a new understanding of His great and marvelous plan and to the magnificent beauties of His creations. We have prayed that somehow we have made a difference somewhere but more importantly have the past 23 months made a change in us? Time will be our judge. We may no longer carry the ‘mantle’ of a full-time missionary but that does not mean that we cannot carry the Spirit with us. We hope that we will always have the spirit of missionary work.

So, on the lighter side, here is our ‘Top 10 Things’ that we will not miss in the Philippines:
1.      The humidity
2.      The sickly dogs
3.      The roosters crowing all night
4.      The ‘pee trees’
5.      The drivers
6.      The ‘motors’
7.      The smell
8.      No brake lights or tail lights on vehicles
9.      The bugs
10.  Ants everywhere

And of course, here is our “Top 10 Things” that we will miss in the Philippines
            1. The beautiful, beautiful Philippine people
            2. The smiles of the children
            3. Our missionaries
            4.  The beautiful green vegetation
            5. The Senior Couples
            6. President and Sister Stucki
            7. The members
            8.  Jeepneys
            9.  Carabao
            10. Mangos and pineapple

We love you all. Once again we thank each of you for your love, prayers and support. We could not have done this without you.  What a sweet reunion awaits us on Monday. Get ready for the hugs! Remember to BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers. O Philippines, O Philippines, we bid thee farewell!
Mom and Dad, Granma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

Week 97

July 16, 2012

Dear Family and Friends, 

We leave for Manila in three days. What happened in the past 23 months? We are excited to be in Manila again. President and Sister Stucki have planned a temple session for all of the Senior Couples on Friday afternoon. We will then go back to the Mission Home for dinner and a Testimony Fireside that night. We still need to get everything packed and ready. Today is our preparation day and there is much to do. I am writing this letter but I probably won’t be able to send it since we have no internet. I will try and send it when we are in Manila.

Showing how banana leaf can protect you from rain - while out burning garbage.
 This past week has been an interesting week. We began by spending another Monday at the Family History Center. Mom has been able to get many of the members excited about Family History and has helped many of them feel the spirit of this great work. While we were at the Family History Center our Zone Leaders called and asked if we like chicken and will we eat the chicken over here. We thought that was a rather strange question but they called us back and asked if we were going to be home today. We told them that we were at the church doing Family History and you could hear and feel the disappointment in their voices. I had to laugh and then told them that we would be finished around 1:00. They then told us not to eat lunch and they would call us back. It was fun. They wanted to cook lunch for us on their preparation day. Well, they called later and said they were going to be a little late because it was taking a little longer than they expected. About 2:30 they showed up at our home and we have a delicious dinner of chicken and rice. It was fun that they would do this for us. We ate and had a good time. They also wanted to know if they (the whole Zone) could come over for a farewell lunch at our home next Tuesday after the Zone Meeting. They didn’t want to be forward or pushy or anything like that but they invited themselves to our home for a farewell lunch! You just have to love these young 19-20 year-old boys!

Tuesday became our preparation day when we had to wait for the internet people to come and fix the internet. They were supposed to be here at 8:00am so we could be on our way to Puerto to meet with President and Sister Peterson and to travel to an area in the north part of the island to look at possible buildings for a new Branch. The internet people showed up at 4:00 so we had to reschedule our trip up north. Well, after a lot of climbing trees and scratching their heads, the repair team only had one solution – there are too many trees here and they are blocking the signal. (only in Manila would trees not be a problem). They couldn’t answer me why I could get a signal sometimes and other times I couldn’t. I asked them to put another 10ft of antenna on the receiver but they said that was not allowed – they could only go up to 30 feet. The good news was, they could climb up the avocado tree in the corner of the yard and see if they could get a signal there. Well, they got a signal and wanted to attach the 30 foot antenna to the top of the avocado tree. One of the repairmen said they would have to charge for the extra wire to get it over to the tree. I asked him about what would happen to the signal when the winds would blow or would I be charged for ‘roaming charges’. He didn’t understand until I began to wave my hand and asked how the signal would be affected when the winds would sway the antenna. “No problem sir, we will secure the antenna to the other trees!” I didn’t understand how that would fix it since all of the trees would be blowing in the wind. And then there was the fact that the antenna was now 30 feet above the top of the tree –much higher than the 40 foot antenna would be and even more difficult for low flying aircraft to see! (we have so many aircraft here in Narra – yeah right!). They were all smiles and ready to attach the antenna and then they told me it would cost me 2,000 to 3,000 pesos to have them climb the tree and attach the antenna to the tree. I refused. This seems to be the way many people make money over here – no set charges, no receipts, just a pay off. I told them to put the antenna back on the roof and to reset the internet the way it was previous to their dealings. Then I cancelled the internet contract. I refuse to do business this way. So – we now have no internet service at all. We have been cut-off from the outside world for our last 12 days. 

We were off to Puerto, Roxas and Taytay early Wednesday morning. It was a long winding and bumpy road. We decided that since we were this far north on the island we would continue on to El Nido on the west side of the island. El Nido is a beautiful little town. It is strictly tourism but it is still very small. They are building or improving the airport. Right now it is a gravel runway. We stayed in a little beachfront hotel. It was very scenic and very relaxing. It was nice to sit and look at God’s handiwork – what a beautiful country this is! 

That evening President Stucki called and asked if we could set up a SKYPE meeting to hold Presidency Meeting. After a few minor technical adjustments we were all logged on and were able to have our meeting from the deck of our hotel. It was fun. Rough life, huh – sitting on the beach, drinking a mango shake and soaking in the beauty of nature? 

Elder & Sister Peterson and us.

Early Thursday we began or travel back to Puerto. In one of the small cities, we stopped to look at some possible sites and buildings to rent for a meetinghouse for the group. Currently they meet in the yard of one of the members in a small covered carport-like area. They have about 30 members attend each week so it would be nice to have an established place for them to meet in. 

Spanish Fort

Elder Robison says, "Hi Mom & Dad!"
We arrived back in Narra late that evening very tired and well shaken by the bumps in the roads. Friday and Saturday we were back at the church doing more training in the Family History Center. 

Me and Sister Ruby
After speaking in our Narra Branch on Sunday, we were off to Bagong Sikat. We have received permission to begin getting these members formed into a group. We have much to do in a very few days to get this group organized. This will be a good thing for these members in that area since it is such a financial burden to attend church meetings in Narra. Bringing the church closer to them will be a wonderful blessing in their lives and for the town of Bagong Sikat. 

 It has been hard to say goodbye to the people so many times. It seems to get more difficult in each area we leave. It is difficult to think that we may never see these people again in this life. But, what a reunion it will be on the other side! 

We are doing well. We hope that you are also happy and enjoying life. We do miss you and are excited to see you again. We love you all. Thank you again for all of your prayers and support. Remember to BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers. 

Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

Week 96

July 9, 2012 

Dear Family and Friends, 

How is everyone this week? We hope that your celebrations were fun and safe – stressing the safe part! 

Our 4th of July was just another day – no fireworks or barbecue. We will save that for a time in the near future. We began our week with a working preparation day. The Zone Leaders and I met with our 2 new District Leaders to conduct a new leaders training. We enjoy helping with the training of our missionaries. They are such good young men. While I was conducting the training, mom was in the Family History Center conducting training with 2 other members of the Narra Branch. It is really exciting to see how the members are excited about finding their family history. As mom finished with her training around 1:00 pm, some other members came to do some research of the films that we had ordered. The microfilm readers have not been used in about 5 years, so I had to replace parts from one machine to make the other machine work. After some frustrating moments, we were successful and the research began. We spent the entire day at the Family History Center, but that is not unusual! 

Tuesday was our missionary District Meeting and semi-preparation day. There seems to be so much that needs to be done before we leave. Wednesday we were back at the Family History Center and Thursday it was many hours of driving to Rizal and back to do apartment checks in Quezon and Rizal. It was raining when we left Narra so we didn’t know exactly what the road conditions would be going over the mountains to the west side of the island. It seemed that the further we drove the worse the rain became, but once again the Lord blessed us with another one of His ‘tender mercies’ and allowed us to travel the roughest portions under very favorable conditions. 

It is a strange thing, but Rizal seems to get farther and farther from Narra each time we travel there.  I think the neighbors wonder what we do and where we go to get the van so dirty and muddy! 

Friday we were off once again to Puerto to do some shopping. We have put a lot of miles on the van this week. 

We attended a Family History Class in the Aborlan Branch on Saturday morning. They are doing a lot of Family History work when compared with the other branches. Again, it is exciting to see how the members are excited to do Family History. 

Afterwards, we were on our way to Brookes Point for apartment checks. We decided to stay overnight at a small resort in Brookes Point so we would not have to travel down and back again in one day. This would also allow us to visit with the Cabar Branch on Sunday. 

We arranged our schedule so that this Sunday we could be in Cabar. We felt that we needed to be in Cabar for meetings. This is such a beautiful little branch hidden in the jungle. The members are so faithful and the best way to explain them – just plain, humble people. 

Many struggle just making a daily living. Most of them are coconut farmers. The missionaries that are assigned in Cabar pack in their food and water for the day. There is no ‘clean’ water station or little store to buy water. Sometimes the farmers will give them a coconut or buko so they can drink the juice or give them a papaya to eat. It is a tough area but the missionaries love it.

Elders Kummer and Morales
Our trip back from Cabar was exciting. It has been raining for much of the week and as we started back for Narra, the heavens opened up again and it poured. As we went through some of the mountain passes the roads were downright fun to navigate. In one particular area the roads were completely flooded over. We knew that there were many holes and ruts in the road but now we couldn’t see any of those holes. We just had to go forward in faith and hope for the best. 

This is water pouring off of the road.
We made it home safely and breathed a sigh of relief. Sunday evening as we talked about our adventures I think we both decided that if it hadn’t been for the many prayers that have been offered for our safety, we wouldn’t have made it. Heavenly Father has watched over us and kept us safe. 

We have just one Sunday remaining here on Palawan. The Narra Branch asked us to speak in the Narra Sacrament Meeting this week. It will be difficult to say goodbye to our friends. I received a message from the District President in our first area. He would like to see us before we go back home. I’m afraid with our schedule and his that we won’t be able to meet him. There are so many people to visit and to offer them our heart-felt gratitude and thanks. We hope to attend meetings in San Gabriel on our last Sunday in the Philippines. We have so many plans and hopes, but accomplishing everything in the little time remaining will be difficult. We hope they understand that they will always be in our hearts and in our prayers. We love them all so dearly. 

We hope that this letter finds you all in good health. We pray that you are enjoying life and that you are happy. Most of all, we hope that we can send this letter to you before we come home! We will continue to pray for the internet – in this case I think that is appropriate.  We love you all and are excited to see you soon. Remember to BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers. 

Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week 95

July 2, 2012 

Dear Family and Friends, 


Ben, Isabel, and Brady
 and  HAPPY 4th of JULY to EVERYONE! ! ! !  

Adam, Sarah, Isabel, Gma, Ben, Jon
 We hope this letter finds all of you healthy, happy and doing well. We are also doing well. It has been another busy week. It has been a bitter-sweet week. This was transfer week and it turns out to be our last transfer that we will experience with our missionaries. We had a big transfer this cycle since the mission has 20 missionaries going home and only 6 new missionaries arriving. We had 2 areas close here on Palawan. This transfer affected all but one of the companionships within our Zone but fortunately only 3 missionaries from the zone were transferred off of Palawan. The other missionaries were transferred to different areas within the zone.  

Elders Jensen, Halterman, McGowan, Chiong, Christie,Corry, Sister Campoto
We tried something a little different with this transfer. When our newly transferred missionaries arrived at the airport, we quickly took some pictures and then loaded them into the vans and went to the Memorial Park in Puerto Princesa. There, President Peterson spoke to them about the importance of the rescue that started at this World War II prisoner of war camp. He reviewed the terrible events that happened here to the 143 POWs and of the 11 that escaped. This started a rescue effort to save 500 other POWs at Cabanatuan. Bishop Richard Edgley spoke of this rescue effort in the April General Conference. We wanted to give the missionaries a ‘sense or feel’ for the love we should have for the Filipino people because of what they did and also a sense of how Heavenly Father has preserved the land of the Philippines for His purposes. We hope they sensed that something significant happened here. 

Us, Elders Morris, Labinpuno, Domantay, Galagal
 We spent an extra day in Puerto to be escorts to Elder Stirland and his family. 

Elder Stirland and his parents
 We came into the mission field about 2 weeks after Elder Stirland arrived – so we were new missionaries together in San Gabriel District. We have ‘kind of’ followed him around the mission and it was fun as our paths crossed many times during our time here. We were fortunate to have worked with him in the Mission Office – so he has become one of our ‘adopted’ children. We were blessed to show them around Palawan and introduce them to a little part of the Philippines. We took them to the Memorial Gardens, the World War II Museum, to Bakers Hill, the weavers shops and of course to the pearl shops so they could purchase things for their family. It was a fun time. I hope that they enjoyed our quick tour. We are grateful to the Peterson’s who came along with us to help. They know Puerto much better than we do, so their assistance was valuable. They are such a wonderful couple and dear friends. 

Elder Stirland
Mom continues to do Family History training for the Branch several days a week. We spent another day with the Branch Family History consultant on Friday. Sister Nelieta does very well speaking English but sometimes doesn’t understand everything. She would frequently ask if we could understand her. Mom asked her a question about something and she answered something totally different. It was fun. Mom laughed, hugged her and then said how much she loved this good sister. We are so humbled by these good people. Sister Nelieta smiled a big smile then said, “Thank you for loving me.” She was so sincere. It was one of those moments we will never forget. We just love the people here. 

Sister Nelieta Agustin
Saturday, we had the opportunity of meeting with another senior couple that are assigned as Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) Missionaries. I think they have a difficult assignment. They are assigned to cover the whole Philippines, a part at a time, to find those who have been assisted by the fund and make sure that they have found jobs or are using their education to improve their lives. What a monumental task that is! We had to laugh when they first contacted us. They wanted to fly into Puerto and then take a taxi to Narra. I don’t know that they completely understood how remote this place is. We tried to explain to them that there are no taxis on Palawan. We put them in contact with President and Sister Peterson and they brought them to Narra to meet with the District President and the Branch Presidents. I was also asked to conduct some additional training for the Branch Presidents. I was informed of the training as I walked into the meeting. We have learned to be prepared to speak at any time. It is a great experience.

We have just 3 Sundays remaining here in Palawan so we have been praying to know which Branches we need to attend in those last three weeks. This week we visited Aborlan Branch. We had a great visit. It is difficult to say goodbye to many of these people. We love the Philippines and these wonderful people.
Again, we hope that all of you are doing well and we pray that everyone will be safe with the fireworks this year J. We are so thankful for your love and prayers. We are excited to see you in a few weeks. Remember to BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers.

Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

Week 94

June 25, 2012


Dear Family and Friends, 

Hello again! This week has gone by so quickly. It is just amazing how fast time is moving. We have had another wonderful week. We are doing well. There is still so much to do before we leave and we hope that we can accomplish everything that needs to be done. We finished our apartment checks on Tuesday after attending a great District Meeting. Our missionaries are the greatest. They are working so hard and doing a wonderful work here. We were very impressed with the District Meeting and the manner in which the missionaries teach each other in their training meetings. Preach My Gospel has made such a difference in the way missionary work is done. We often look at each other and say that we wish we could have had the Preach My Gospel manual and the associated training when we were young missionaries. 

Wednesday we spent most of the day at the Family History Center. Our Branch Family History Consultant came to mom on Sunday and asked if she would teach her about the computer and Family Search. We had 5 sisters come to be trained and to work on their Family History. It is fun to see their excitement and they love to be together with each other. Mom is so good with them. 

After our meeting, three of the sisters volunteered to show us the place where the Branch Activity was going to be on Saturday. We went off into the rice fields in the van – can you guess what is coming? Well, we got somewhat lost. Of course the dirt roads were rain soaked and muddy. The sisters were certain that the place was just at the end of the road.  Two of the sisters got out in order to ask someone for directions and I followed them up the road (path) in the van. They got directions from a farmer and we then tried to back up – well, yes, we got stuck again. One of the sisters got out of the van and put her hands on her face and said: “We really have a problem now!” The farmer looked at the van and went back into his house to find something to help us. I got out of the van and looked at the situation and with a prayer in my heart I asked mom to get behind the wheel and I would try to lift the wheel out of the rut. Someone was watching over for us. I was able to lift it enough to get it out. We then made a 15 point turn to turn around and head back out. One of the sisters said that I was a professional driver. I replied: “No, a professional driver would have turned around in a 3 point turn. But thank you. You are very kind.”   If the rain keeps up, we probably will rent a tricycle to take us to the activity.  I won’t drive that one again.  Sorry, but we didn’t take any pictures of this adventure except for the scorpion we met while making that 15 point turn.

President and Sister Peterson asked if we could meet them in Brookes Point on Thursday morning. They had arranged to meet President Corneilio of the Cabar Branch at his home. He is a rice farmer and they have been harvesting rice this week. We had the honor of learning about his farm and also riding a carabao. What a treat. We loved it. This is something that I have wanted to do ever since we came to Palawan. The carabao was so gentle and to my surprise, they are really difficult to ride. There is nothing to hold on to and the way they ‘sway’ or plod along from side-to-side with their loose skin makes it difficult to maintain balance. The little Philippino kids make it look so easy! 

President Cornelio has 2 hectares of land. He farms one hectare and rents out the other hectare to another farmer. He told us that Heavenly Father has blessed him so much this year. Normally he is able to plant and harvest two crops in a year, but this year he was able to have three crops. He has such a sweet family. It was so good to be with him for the day. 

Us with the Petersons
Our Branch Activity was great. After our exciting adventure to find the activity site on Tuesday, I think the sisters convinced the Branch President to have the activity back at the beach in their usual site. We thought that this was a better idea. We love the beach. One of the things we will do before we leave Palawan is to watch a sunrise on the beach.  We played games and mom and I just walked the beach. It was a relaxing time. 

Sunday we had our monthly Branch Fireside. This is such a wonderful branch. They are always so excited to see us. They wanted me to talk about ‘Feasting upon the words of Christ’. This time I worked on having the slides in Tagalog. I hope they got something from the fireside. Most importantly, I hope that they felt something there. 

We are under thirty days now. That is exciting and scary all at the same time. We miss everyone so much. Thank you all for the Father’s Day greetings. We hope that you are all doing well. We hope that the summer isn’t going by too fast for you. We hope that you can enjoy some family time together. We love you. 

Thank you once again for your love, prayers and support. We couldn’t do this without you. Remember to BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ. And, always remember to say your prayers. 

Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant