Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week 15

December 14, 2010

Dear Family,

Another week has passed. Thanks for the package. I love the books. I have read about half of President Monson’s biography. It is great. Not a lot has happened this week. We traveled to Manila on Wednesday afternoon to have dinner and say goodbye to the Smith’s. We will miss them. The new senior couple, Elder and Sister Peterson, are from Arizona. They will also be here for 23 months. The Lord has sent a very strong senior couple to our mission. They will be a great asset to the work here. We spent Thursday and Friday in Manila with the new couple showing them how to get to the Temple, the Area Offices, the Mission Office and the Mission Home (most importantly we showed them where Sam’s was and made sure they had a Sam’s card – it’s a little bit of home). I hope my driving didn’t discourage them. The office Elders and the Assistant’s drove the Petersons car to their area and we enjoyed the company of the Petersons in our car as we took them to Naic on Saturday morning.

We also had interviews with President Howard this week. He is a tremendous man and has done a remarkable thing with this mission. There is talk going around that they will be splitting the Manila Mission when he goes home in July. That would be exciting but again that is just talk. We will be going back to the Mission Home on Saturday to attend a meeting with the Stake Presidents and District Presidents in this area. Normally I wouldn’t attend this meeting but President Howard asked if I would attend. We are close to creating another Stake in our area and I think he wants me to know what is going on since he will be leaving in July and he doesn’t want to lose any momentum we have gained in creating this and another Stake in Naic. We also have the Branch Christmas party on Saturday.

These Philippine people are some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen – they are so kind and courteous. They do so much with so very little. I pray that I may have a grateful heart and not take everything that we have for granted.

Well, we are doing well. We are healthy. We are happy. We love the Lord’s work. I often feel that I am not doing enough. However, I can see the Lord’s hand in our lives and I look for his guidance each day. I love that I can kneel down and not rush through my prayers. I love the time to read and study the scriptures. I love to be able to ponder so many things. This gospel is true. It is for everyone and I am convinced that it is the only way to bring about a lasting peace in the world. Thank you all for your love and prayers and support. We couldn’t do this without you.


Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Grant and Janene

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Week 14

December 5, 2010

We just came home from church and decided we should sit down and write a quick letter. It is a beautiful December day – the temperature is 89 F (the internet weather says it feels like 94 F due to the humidity) and the sky is a beautiful blue. I’m sure you know what comes next - It’s hot and humid - still! We have had a busy Sunday. We were up early to make sure that we could meet the District President and give him a letter for a baby that will need several operations to correct some birth defects. We are praying that the Mabuhay House will approve the request so the baby can receive the medical treatment she needs. We then went to our Branch meetings, taught our last Temple Preparation Class, went to the Carmona Branch to a youth baptism and then finally back home. Come to think of it, Sundays haven’t changed a lot – they are still busy days. But I look forward each week for Sunday to come.

Our last Temple Preparation class went well. We will probably start another one in January or February. I am looking forward to going to the Temple with the Cagas Family. In the first weeks that we were here, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with this family and teach them about temples. I will never forget this young father as he kneeled on the floor of his humble home and poured out his heart to Heavenly Father that a way would be opened that their family could go to the temple. We are so very close to that happening. The Elders in our Zone are absolutely great. We went to 2 of the 3 baptismal services yesterday. There was 1 sister baptized in the Binan Branch, 1 sister baptized in the GMA Branch and a mother and her 4 sons (ages 12 to 18 – the Young Men’s program just doubled in size) baptized in the Carmona Branch. Our Bulihan Branch has 3 baptisms scheduled next Saturday. I believe their goal is 20 baptisms in December. They work hard. Our Elders had 10 investigators in Church today.

Wednesday we went to Manila with the Smith’s for Zone Conference. Brother Smith really wanted to see where the Jeepneys were manufactured. He researched it online and found a Jeepney factory in Manila. So, off we went to find the Jeepneys. Well, we went right to the place where Google said the factory was located but it wasn’t there. We did get to see Manila Bay close up and experience some wonderful Manila traffic. President Howard had a Christmas party for the Elders and Sisters for Zone Conference. We began conference with song practice for the missionary fireside and then he spoke briefly to the missionaries. After he spoke, he told them that he had a surprise – he gave each of them a Snickers candy bar – one would think that they had just been given $50. Then he told them that they could just sit back and relax and they could watch The Other Side of Heaven and The Best Two Years. I was delighted to watch the reactions of the missionaries. The President had popcorn and soda for them and then they had Philippine Hot Dogs for lunch. I came away thinking how grateful I am for what I have and how the ‘little’ things in life mean so much. I guess we only appreciate those ‘little’ things when we are away from them. We are truly blessed. We were able to purchase a small Christmas tree for the apartment. It is nice. We decorated the tree with silver garland and small red ornaments. Mom set out the Philippine Nativity Set under the tree. It looks very nice. We also put some lights and garland on the staircase and I happened to find 5 little 3 inch Nutcracker soldiers to put on the stairs. I wanted to decorate the tree with something ‘true Philippine’ but they really don’t have Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebration. Friday mom taught the District Family History Consultant at the Binan chapel. The training went well. I was pleasantly surprised (and delighted) when we registered him on Family Search and then had him sign in. The home page welcomed him by name to Family Search. He was taken back and asked how they knew his full name and had all this information about him in the computer. We told him that we have ways of knowing these things! He was even more surprised when we were able to find his parents and grandparents on the website and were able to link them to him. We will continue to work with him on training and then work with the consultants in each branch.


Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Grant and Janene.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Week 13

November 28, 2010

Dear Family,
We hope that this letter finds everyone healthy, happy and stuffed from Thanksgiving Dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It’s all about family and how very thankful we are this Thanksgiving to have such a wonderful family. We love you all. Being away seems to deepen that love even more. We had an enjoyable pre-Thanksgiving dinner with all of the senior couples, the Mission President and his wife on Wednesday. After the dinner we had Mission Presidency Meeting. Turkey is not common here but it can be found – and we did our best to eat as much turkey as we could to stock up until next year. (Picture: village by the side of the expansion brigde)

I have been going to teaching appointments with most of our Elders. On Thursday evening we visited a wonderful family and I had the opportunity to teach about Temples and Family History. It is such a marvelous thing to see their faces light up with the hope and love that the gospel brings not only into their own lives but also the lives of their extended family. As we were coming back home, I asked the Elders (both Americans) what they did for Thanksgiving Dinner. One replied that he ate 4 chicken burgers from a local eatery. His companion said that he ate at the mission home but was surprised with a cake. His mother had found a Philippine bakery on-line and ordered a cake for him. It was delivered to the mission home but he said that by the time they got it the cake was infested with ants. His companion said that it really wasn’t that bad! Guess that the added protein was a bonus. It wasn’t until I had asked the Elders about their Thanksgiving that I realized – mom and I each had a Hot Pocket for Thanksgiving dinner (they weren’t even turkey – they were Philly steak and cheese). They were good and we were thankful for the dinner. I think we appreciate what we have more each day. This year I’m very grateful to have 5 fingers on each hand.
Mom and I went with our Elders on Thursday evening to visit some families. The first family has 5 beautiful little girls. The 3 youngest were home. (Picture: this isn't their home, but it is a thatched home located off the side of the expansion bridge) We had a good discussion with the mom and the 2 older girls. The littlest girl wouldn’t come into the room with us – in fact, when the girls tried to get her into the room she cried and screamed. The mother finally told us that she was afraid of us because we were big and white. I was finally able to get her to shake my hand when she saw that I would shake her sister’s hand and make her arm go ‘like rubber’. I’m so talented.
This past week, we have been preparing a presentation for the Branch Family Home Evening on Saturday evening. We were asked to talk about Home and Visiting Teaching. Now, the previous Family Home Evenings have been socials with games and fun and food. So our challenge was to somehow make this so it wasn’t too boring. We did a Power-point presentation and did some role playing. The members seemed to enjoy the role playing and some of them really got into their parts. It was fun and I think that they enjoyed themselves. Mom and I were on the front row and there were a couple of little children that would tickle our backs through the openings in the chair-backs. One little girl about 6 years old kept reaching around and touching my arm. I didn’t think anything about that until we were finished and I was taking some things back to the library – she came down the hall and grabbed my arm and rubbed her hand up and down on my arm. They don’t see many people with hair on their arms here. I was delighted and it will always be a fun memory for me. The sisters frequently come up to mom and tell her how ‘white’ she is. The Relief Society President always says to mom, “I wish that I were white like you.” Mom always says, “No you don’t. Look at all of these freckles.” We seem to be a source of never ending entertainment for the members.
I also had the opportunity to go with the Elders to visit a gentleman that was born in Nuremberg, Germany. He lived there until he was about 20 years old and then moved to Chicago. He married a Philippine girl and is now living here. Go figure, I had to come to Manila to teach a German about the Gospel in the English language. He has a real fun accent (English with a German and Chicago accent). Hopefully this contact will be a good one for the Elders. The Smith’s (one of the senior couples here) will be going back home on December 8th. We will miss them. They have been good mentors to us and have helped us in so very many ways.

While we were travelling to a member’s home, the Smith’s asked us if we would like to see a suspension bridge – of course we did. So we had the opportunity to walk across this fun, bouncy, swaying bridge. I was proud of mom. She made it all of the way across the bridge and back and didn’t get motion sick. I admit that I was a little ‘wobbly’ when I stepped off of the bridge – not sick – just wobbly like when you get off a boat onto dry land again. We also were able to see some beautiful scenery. We were able to see pineapple fields and sugar cane fields. I was amazed at the pineapple – I never realized that they grew on a bush. It was a fun and new experience for us! (Pictures: top - mom and smith's on bridge, top right- mom and dad on bridge, left- pineapple field, right- pineapple growing on bush, bottom- sugarcane on the back of a motor bike)

We had the Teaching Assistant’s in our branch today to go on exchanges with the Elders in our Branch. They arrived here early this Sunday morning and they didn’t get breakfast. They were going back to the Elders apartment after church for dinner but our Elders said that they didn’t have any food in the apartment. I told him that if they could wait until after the Temple Preparation class we would take them home with us and fix them some dinner. He was so amazed (probably that we could cook) that we would do that for them. We ended up with the 4 Elders and so mom fixed Sweet and Sour Chicken and a lot of rice (lots of rice) for them. She even made brownies. They were great. It still amazes me that they can eat so much rice – it is nothing short of just amazing! It was good to have them here in our apartment (3 Filipinos and 1 Fijian). They are good Elders.

Hope that you are all doing well. Don’t let the snow get to you – it is consistently 86 degrees here every day (and it will get warmer I’m sure). The humidity is still high but the evening temperatures are nice. Tomorrow we will get our Christmas tree. Most Filipinos don’t have a Christmas tree – they decorate the outsides of their homes but usually don’t have a tree (no room for it in the houses). Those that do have a Christmas tree have it on the little front entry way or porch. Mom has been wanting to put up the decorations since early November – but being the Scrooge that I am – we have to wait until after Thanksgiving! (Picture: I guess if they got a big tree, they could always hire a trike to deliver it for them. These people in the picture fit a bed on the trike!) Please take care. We love you all and pray for each of you every day and night. Keep up the faith. 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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Weeks 11 and 12

This letter is written by both Mom and Dad. Mom's writings are in blue, and Dad's are in red. Enjoy!
Elder Morgan is out teaching with the missionaries this morning, so he said I need to write the letter this week since he hadn’t written last week. I think he is having a hard time with his finger all bandaged up (Grant - when you type with only two fingers and then one of the fingers is immobilized then your typing has to be less than 50 percent of what it was to begin with and believe me, that is really, really slow). To explain about that I should just say he opened a small blister caused by the eczema on the front of his right ring finger while we were out. He washed his hands didn’t think to have me give him the hand sanitizer and then he shook hands with a lot of people after. By the next morning his finger looked like a big red hot dog. Anyway, the infection kept getting worse even after a blessing and 6 days of antibiotic therapy. While we were in Manila at the temple, we saw the MTC doctor – he told us to go over to the ER at St Luke’s Hospital. We went to the ER but it was a holiday. They put a clean bandage on the finger and asked us to come back tomorrow to have the surgeon evaluate the finger. This is Grant now. Later that night the finger opened up and drained until about 2 am. The pressure was finally relieved but I didn’t know if I could keep it clean so Wednesday afternoon we went to the local Hospital ER here in the city. The ER doctor said that the finger would have to be drained surgically and asked if I could wait for about 20 minutes and he would call the surgeon to come into the hospital. By this time I was ready to do whatever needed to be done. Well, about an hour later the surgeon shows up and looks at the finger and said that it would definitely need to be opened up and cleaned out (now would a surgeon be expected to say anything other than that?). He gave me a local anesthetic in between my fingers and as he squeezed the wound he kept asking me if I could feel any pain – YES! He gave me another shot of lidocaine between the fingers and then massaged the finger until it went numb (somewhat). I laid down on the ER bed and he put some iodine on the finger (by this time he did put gloves on - no mask or gown but at least gloves) and then he asked if I could understand Tagalog. I told him a little and he started to cut. I could feel everything he did (especially when he was cleaning around the bone), but it wasn’t extremely painful. Everyone in the ER gathered around the bed to watch (no one had gloves or a mask on). Mom started taking pictures and the on-lookers began to pose for her. The surgeon was making them all laugh and everyone was having a good time – I’m sure that this was the best entertainment or excitement they had seen in a long time. Mom, about half way through, got light headed and had to lay down on the bed next to me. That got them talking even more until they took her blood pressure and decided she really was okay. After about 45 minutes the surgeon finished up. He had to leave the wound open so that it would heal from the bone outward. I was given another prescription for an antibiotic and a three day supply of Celebrex for the pain and told to change the bandage twice daily until the wound healed. The Celebrex worked for the pain until I laid down that night. These past 2 weeks have been a genuine challenge but it looks like the wound is healing ok now. I asked the surgeon what I should look for as the wound healed in case I should come back to the ER. His response was, “You are a missionary. You should pray much, much more over the next week or more.”
OK, this is Janene again. Last week, on Monday, we had our Family Home Evening with our missionaries. We cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for them (well sort of). We cooked 3 turkey roasts, a small ham, mashed potatoes, rice, candied yams (which happen to be purple here), broccoli, Just Phil (tropical fruit cocktail salad), and had Cinnabons for desert. Couldn’t find any pies. The American Elders ate the mashed potatoes so fast it was almost comical. It was also transfer week and the Zone leaders received permission to announce transfers at the Family Home Evening. The elders were, should I say, HYPER ! After dinner we settled down (well we tried) and practiced the music for the Musical Fireside for Christmas. This was so funny – none of them can read music very well so they just sing loud. We all had a good time. On Tuesday we were able to go to the temple with the elders and sisters who were leaving to go home. It was a small group, but they were good missionaries. One of our elders, Elder Tordel, was leaving to go home. He is a really good elder and we’ll miss him. I love how we have a nice dinner at the mission home and then have a meeting where the missionaries share their last testimony here in their mission field. There is such a wonderful spirit. (Pictures; Left is the San Gabriel zone after transfers. Back: DelaCruz, Tordel Middle: Brother Delrosario, Bergonia, Shiver, Leavit, Dad
Front: Buzbee, Spiva, Condeza, Popoy, Stirland. The picture on the right is of Mom and Dad with Elder Tordel)

Friday night we went to our first Tagalog tutoring class with Sister Briones. She is a wonderful teacher. We sure hope it will help both of us. I will start teaching/training Family History Consultants soon and hope to be able to use some Tagalog words and phrases. We’ll take a picture soon of Sister Briones to send to you, also. She also bakes and sells her baked goods. Yum. Saturday we spent finishing up the Temple Preparation lesson with help from Sister Briones. That night we went to the District Husband and Wives party. They showed a religious movie that Kurt Cameron did recently about divorce and how it is possible for husbands and wives to stay married. It was an okay movie. We enjoyed it. Then the District President led a discussion about how husbands and wives should treat each other to strengthen our marriages. Then we had a dance. It was fun and the Philippine saints are very friendly.
Sunday we went to three Sacrament Meetings, and then Dad had a meeting with the District President and the Branch Presidents that night concerning the organization of the San Gabriel Stake. It was a busy day. The Temple Prep class went really well. He’s getting very good with his Tagalog. Our last Sacrament Meeting was a Primary Program. It is so fun as they have a different Primary age child lead the opening hymn, rest hymn, and closing hymn. Sister Briones is their music leader and has them do fun things with their music. Dad always cries. He loves children singing.
We love you all. Be good, and always remember to say your prayers!

Love,Dad & Mom, Grandpa & Grandma, Grant & Janene