Friday, September 24, 2010

FHE Pictures

Here are the pictures to go with the stories from letter 3. They are all from the Family Home Evening activity. (Dad's letter called it a branch activity....FHE or Branch it what you like!)

Bulihan Branch FHE decoration sign.

This is most of the members of the branch. The little guy on the floor wearing yellow was moms friend.

Here he is again. He loved to look at pictures of himself on the camera! Mom didn't catch his name.... ( I think that kids were the hardest to understand on my mission.....they talk fast and not with the correct grammar....)

This is 'Phillipine Genius", one of their favorite games. They hold up a picture beind you and you have to guess what it is. (Sounds like 50 questions where you can only answer yes or no to guess what it is...)

Dad playing Philippine Genius. He was the first one picked to play. He didn't realize he had the option to pass! Mom says that they thought he was really smart. He guessed 'sweet roll', but they had no idea what that was, then he guessed 'donut' and got it right. (This was after asking a bunch of questions.)

Refreshments...... it was rice and a bunch of other food. Chicken curry with carrots I think.

This is the "Finish the Lyric" game. There were word strips on the floor in a random order. The others would start singing part of a hymn. When they stopped singing, the team had to grab the next 7 words of the song and put them in the right order, in 10 seconds. Dad got put on the team with all the young women hehehe and mom was on a team with a few women and 2 young men.

These are the men of the branch singing 'Praise to the Man". Mom said that she missed getting pictures of dad doing the lesson on the iron rod. She said that he did a great job. Mom was in charge of the spiritual thought and dad said that she did a great job. Sounds like they are doing a great job huh?! There was one more picture of people that had just had birthdays, being sung to. They got candy as a treat. Mom says that sugar or 'sweet things' are a big problem there. The kids are given candy at church to keep them quiet. The older kids, even the men go around with suckers in their mouths at church....hence the loss of teeth early on.....more pictures to come....

Week 3

Here are these weeks excerpts from dad's letter! Enjoy!

" Well week three has passed. We have had an interesting week. We are becoming more familiar with the area and the members and I think that we are building greater trust with the branch members. We visited 5 families this week to invite them to a Branch Family Activity on Saturday evening. I know that I will never be the same after these visits.
The Branch Activity was fun. It was to start at 6:00pm. We started at 7:00. They asked mom to give a spiritual thought and I was asked to give the lesson (a lesson at a branch activity?) Mom did great. I was asked to give a lesson about member referrals. - I told the story of Lehi’s dream – and guess what ? – I happened to have brought the iron rod with me!! We talked about holding fast to the iron rod and how the scriptures would help us understand the Atonement. As we understand the Atonement in our own lives we all will be able to have the desire to share the gospel like Lehi did. I guess it went ok (Mom said that he did a great job!)I know that the little boy that I had holding onto the rod had a great time. This morning in Church he found me three or four times and smiled a big smile and shook my hand. We then played a couple of games. We were divided into 2 teams and they put word-strips in front of us on the floor. They would sing a hymn and stop. The team had to then complete the next line of the song by using the word-strips. Of course they wanted mom and I to be on the teams. It was fun- I guess. You know how much of a fun person that I am. The next game was just for the men. We were divided into 2 teams. One person would be the ‘guesser’. A person would stand behind the guesser with a picture or item and the guesser would then ask simple questions to find out what the thing was. The team members could only answer yes, no or maybe. Guess who got to be first? Yep – I can make a fool of myself quicker than anyone, but I did guess what the thing was. When it was the other teammates turn they would ask 2 or 3 questions and then pass. I didn’t know I could pass! It was fun – one of the members came up to me after and said that this was the Pilippines best game – it is called Philippine Genius.
We have our first interview with the Mission President (President Howard) on Tuesday morning. We saw him briefly on Saturday in Manila at the Temple. The Missionaries had another Temple Tour Saturday. Mom and I decided to go into Manila and brave the traffic. For the most part we were successful – we only had one minor detour. If you miss your turnoff it is very difficult to turn around and get back on the right street. There are too many one-way streets and way too much traffic. But we made it. The missionaries had over 250 investigators at the Temple on Saturday. It is nice to be with all of the Elders and Sisters and to meet their investigators. I spoke with one investigator that is a retired general in the Philippine Police Force. He is very interested in the Church. I told him that he would not regret the decision to be baptized. As we were leaving, he found me again and we spoke for a few more minutes. I think that he will be baptized soon. The Elders of the San Gabriel Branch had 6 baptisms on Saturday afternoon. They have 20 firm baptism dates for October. These 2 elders are remarkable.
On the lighter side, I have learned a very important lesson about getting dressed in the morning. I must always shake out my pants and shoes – since the other morning I found a friendly gecko (at least I hope he was friendly) in my pants.
I have also learned that when a driver in the oncoming lane flashes his headlights at you, he is not being kind and letting you turn. The flashing lights mean that I AM COMING THROUGH don’t you dare turn in front of me. I learned that lesson very quickly and I didn’t have to repeat that lesson to have it imprinted in my mind. Coming home to our apartment in the evening we often see kids with flashlights looking through the tall grasses. I asked one of the members what they were looking for – frogs. The frogs are a real delicacy for the family meal. I asked if they ate the legs – nope, the whole thing and I mean the whole thing boiled in water. (now I understand a little better about being careful when eating with members and investigators). One of the recent converts that we visited told Mom that she was beautiful for her age. The Filipinos are not afraid to ask your age, in fact that is very common. She said that Mom was beautiful because most Filipinos that are lucky to live to be 60 look like they are 90. Mom smiled and said, ‘Why thank you very much.’
Christmas is in full swing here – most department stores have an electronics department and karaoke is very popular here. I must admit there is nothing like a department store worker singing White Christmas or Santa Claus is Coming to Town as loud as he can while you shop.
The weather is still hot and humid. We had three days this week where the temperature reached 40 degrees C (that’s 104 F) with 85% humidity. With that humidity the sweat doesn’t dry off of your skin. We have learned the benefit of carrying a sweat cloth and an umbrella with you everywhere."
The rest of the letter told us how much they love and miss the grandkids :) They love it and are having a wonderful time serving the Lord. Pictures to come!

Pictures of the Week

Ask and ye shall receive! I asked mom for pictures to go along with last weeks letter, and she sent me some. Sorry for the delay in posting, but here goes!

This is their newest addition to the townhouse, a lightning rod. This is the only way they could get a good enough signal to have internet. No gecko picture (the one from dad's pants). He passed away quietly....

This is the city Silang in the Province of Cavite (seems to be a suburb of Manila). The street is lined with trikes for hire. From the looks of it, it is raining. Dad would probably comment that it is humid and hot!
These are trikes for hire that wait across the street from mom and dad's townhouse.

If you look closely at the trike in front, there is a man taking a nap. Isabel doesn't think that would be very comfortable beacuse he doesn't have a blanket or pillow. (A blanket would probably make it unbearably hot I would think....)

This is a picture of the Manila Temple from across the street where the Distribution Center, Bishop's Office, Family History Library and MTC are. The people are from a temple tour group. I think dad mentions the tour group in one of his letters, just don't remember which week.

This wiring is located on a building near the church. Nice.....

Other than the trikes for hire across the street from their townhouse, there are also lots of Royal Palms. Mom says that it is interesting how the trunk is green near the top of the tree.

This is the fruit of the Royal Palm. They have not had the opportunity to eat it, but are sure that as long as it is edible, they will find out what it is and what it tastes like soon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Week 2

Dad wrote a good letter this week. Here is the letter from this week. At the end of the post I have some pictures they just sent me, so here goes!

Well, this is week two in the Philippines. It is still hot and humid. But I think that maybe I am beginning to tolerate the heat a bit better. I still carry a sweat cloth around all the time but I think that this is a good time to have come to the Philippines (these are the cold months) and I can get accustomed to this heat before the real hot months come in February, March and April. (He wrote that today it was 102 with 80% humidity). We love the people. For the most
part they love Americans and they always seem to have a smile on their faces.

The little towns seem so dirty and somewhat primitive but the people seem to always wear clean clothes and are happy with so little. I am told that the average worker makes about $6 a day in wages. We have found that rent is pretty inexpensive (we pay $300 a month for our little 2 bedroom dollhouse) but gasoline and food are quite expensive. Milk costs 418 pesos per gallon (that’s $9.45) and gasoline is 41.5 pesos per liter (that’s $4.20 per gallon). We are assigned to a small town (San Gabriel District) about 45 kilometers south of Manila. It is considered a rural area even though there are thousands of people living here. I have yet to find where they all live? There are a lot of ‘squatters’ in this area. These are people that have lost a home in the metro Manila area so they move to the countryside and hope to find work. They build small huts out of cardboard and sticks and anything else they can find on the side of the roads. It breaks my heart. There are a lot of people that don’t have work here. Workers are cheap here so every store has lots and lots of employees that are in the stores to help you. They will gladly take something out of the package for you to see it and feel it. We went into a department store to find a portable CD player so we could listen to our Tagalog CDs – the employee followed us around every turn and as soon as we stopped to look at something he would take it out for us to demonstrate it. When we decided on a particular item he put it together for us and demonstrated how to use it before we purchased it. It is real customer service but sometimes you just want to be left alone to look at things. It is still hot and humid.
We attended our first Sunday meetings yesterday in our Branch. The Branch President does not speak very much English at all. He is currently unemployed. His wife works for a company in Saudia Arabia and she comes back to the Philippines once or twice a month. The members are very friendly. They were excited to have us assigned to the Branch. We arrived at 8:10 am for Priesthood and Relief Society at 8:30. No chairs were set up in the chapel so mom and I set up the chapel. We went to our classes and the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency taught Priesthood meeting. He said that we would start the class about 9:00. We were warned that things started when they would be ready. The meetings were good. We attended the Gospel Principles class in Sunday School – there were 9 investigators in class and 3 that usually come were not there. They had a good lesson (they speak in Tagalog but their manuals are in English) Mom and I were the only ones that had manuals in Tagalog – they asked me to read a section of the manual but I told them that my manual was in Tagalog – they all had a good laugh about that. Most of the members have English scriptures also – so talks in Sacrament meeting and lessons are in Taglish (combination of Tagalog and English). They asked Mom and I to speak in Sacrament meeting to introduce ourselves and share our testimonies. I made sure to ask them if we could speak in English. They said that was ok. It was a great experience – I testified about how I knew that the Book of Mormon was true and the spirit was strong – I had eye contact with each of the investigators and it was great. Heavenly Father has poured out His Spirit on this land and this people. As I said, the people are very friendly. They have a natural smile on their faces. They are also very shy. When you compliment them they cover their mouth with their hand and look down. The 1st Counselor in the Branch Presidency speaks very good English. It took him 4 years to join the church and he served a mission locally in the Philippines. As we spoke (I asked him a lot and I mean a lot of questions) I told him that he spoke very good English. I was taken back when even he covered his mouth and looked down. They are very shy.
I was rather bold and invited ourselves to the correlation meeting after Sacrament meeting. I wanted to let them know that we are here as a resource to help them. I think that they were happy and are looking forward to having us in the Branch. One of the full-time elders told me that he has been here for 3 transfers and they haven’t given him the lists of members that he requested. We asked for a member list, a recent convert list, a prospective elder list and list of people that they would like us to work with for reactivation. They told us they would have the list for us next Sunday. The Elder was a little upset. As we were waiting for the correlation meeting to begin they asked me to come into the office so that they could give a blessing to a sister in the Branch. They all looked at me and finally asked if I would anoint her. I did so gladly. That was a great experience.
We have some pictures for you. They are some snapshots of the area. The electrical wiring is unheard of – when a new residence needs electricity they just string a new wire to the home so the wiring on the streets looks like spaghetti and looks dangerous. We had a severe lightning storm on Friday evening – the lights flickered 3 or 4 times and I prayed very hard that the power would not go out. I was glad that I threw my flashlight into our luggage at the last minute. I couldn’t imagine sitting through a power outage in this humidity and heat without a fan. It is still hot and humid.

They also have lots of motorcycles and tricycles (motorcycle with a side car) that really mess up traffic – they go wherever they want to on whatever side of the street they want to. They also have jeepneys that are a real thrill on the road. These are modeled after the World War II army jeep but are modified to carry 20 or more people. They pull off the road to pick up passengers anywhere and anytime – the fun thing is when they just stop in traffic and don’t pull over (they don’t want to lose their place in the traffic)- most don’t have working brake lights or headlights for that matter. Some of the personally owned jeepneys are quite fancy. The owner names them and they are highly polished and decked out. They also have a front bumper that sticks out about 2 feet from the front of the vehicle – I think this provides protection for the vehicle and also another place to carry 1 or 2 more passengers. They are wild.
We are doing well. It is still hot and humid and it will be getting hotter. The apartment is small but nice. We have a couple of friendly geckos that are here in the apartment also. They are ok since they eat the other bugs. You just can’t be surprised or frightened when you move something and a gecko runs up the wall to get away from you.

This first week has been a challenge because we are really trying to figure out what we can do. We didn’t have an established program to come into and we didn’t even have a way to contact members until Sunday. So we have just tried to become accustomed to the area and have studied a lot. I know this will change and we will become very busy. I have made some forms to go into an area book that include directions to the apartment, the chapel, the full-time missionaries and then has pictures of the Branch leadership. My plan is to make one of these sheets for each of the branches so whoever replaces us will have some idea of who to contact and what to do. If anything it will help me.
Hope that you are all doing well. We pray many times during each day for you and know that Heavenly Father will take care of you. We still don’t have the internet connection at the apartment. The service people came out and couldn’t establish a signal. It was comical to watch them – they decided that the trees around the apartment were blocking the signal so they were coming back to put a pipe on the wire to lift it 10 feet higher so we could get a signal (yup, that’s what we need – a lightning rod on top of the house leading into the computer). I told you the wiring is unbelievable. We should be up and running Monday morning. Well this letter is getting way too long. We love you all. We are so proud of you and appreciate your prayers and love. Make sure that you give all the babies and kids big big big hugs for us. We will see you soon on Skype. Love, Dad & Mom
Here are the pictures that mom sent yesterday. I am asking for them to send pictures of the wiring, as it does sound crazy, and the Jeeps that are wild! Sounds like they are doing great and loving it! Nothing better than serving our Heavenly Father all day everday!
Here is the mission home. Mom and dad got to stay there for 3 days before they got to move to their 'dollhouse'.

Here is their doll house. The car is theirs to drive, but it doesn't fit into the driveway! (We are thinking that the pink one is their house)

This is Elder and Sister Smith. They showed mom and dad around a little when they got there.

This is their garbage can. It is made out of an old tire. Funny huh.?

Friday, September 10, 2010

They made it!

On Wednesday morning I received our first letter from dad and mom. They still have no internet, but were able to use one at the mission home so we could have a letter :) I guess dad has been working on this letter since they arrived.
To start off, their flight was delayed because of fog, but they did end up making it there safely.
Their apartment is a small townhouse and reminds them of a doll house. They have a king size bed, but it is a king size bed for Philippinos, so in reality it is a small queen size. The toilet is little and close to the ground and the stove and sink for the kitchen are outside on the porch. They have 2 fans and an air conditioner window unit that if they turn it on 1hr before they go to bed, they will be cool enough to be able to sleep. They have no hot water, but the church has installed a filter so they can at least drink the water.

Dad mentioned in the letter quite a few times that it was hot and humid! He also reminded us that they are in the cooler months now! Can't wait for the hot ones!
One of the first things he got to do was go get a drivers license. The roads have few lines if any, and no stop lights or traffic signs. At some busy intersections there are traffic police, but nothing other than that. Four lane roads are made into six lane roads because you can drive where you want to! He said making a left hand turn is a joke! Their goal for the week was to be able to make it to the mission home and the 4 churches (in 1 piece j/k) and home again without getting lost. They had almost mastered it when he wrote :)
They haven't been able to teach anyone yet, but they have been visiting people in the wards. They were able to meet with a family that has 3 kids (10,9, &5), that had just made it to the temple to be sealed. The dad was building a house for them. They got to go see the house. It had dirt floors, cinder block foundation and a tin roof. The walls weren't quite done, but they were made of cardboard and thin particle boards. As mom and dad were leaving it started to rain. It rained all through the night. Dad says that he stayed awake most of the night praying that those kids would be safe and dry. He says that he doesn't think that they were dry, but at least he knew that they were safe and they were an eternal family. Dad says that the poverty is going to be really hard. It makes his heart hurt. I know that it does the same to mom.
They have been given the assignment to make 5 branches into a stake. Mom is teaching family history classes to the branch consultants on Saturdays and Sundays. Looks like the Lord has plans to keep them busy while they are there!
They are hoping to have internet sometime this week, but aren't sure when. So, until then it is just letters without pictures. I will post some as soon as I get them.

From what we all can tell, they love it so far!

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Their Way!

We (Kim, Brady,Isabel & Ben) had the opportunity to take mom and dad to the airport on Monday, August 30th. Jon and Chris made it to say goodbye one last time before we left. All of us actually said our goodbyes the night before, when dad gave us all father's blessings, in-laws and grandkids too! We left at 6:30pm to make sure that they would be at the airport 2hrs before their flight left. As far as we know, the flight really did leave at 9:40pm as it was supposed to. Here they are in front of the airport.
Isabel actually got out of the truck to help them with their bags. Ben was asleep and woke up right when we got there. He was not very plesant, so Isabel was the one who said goodbye.
Fish kisses for grandpa!
I asked mom and dad if they were nervous yet or just excited. Mom said that she was getting there, that now it was definitely more real. Dad said that he just felt inadequate. It reminded him of going to Germany, getting off the plane and not knowing what to say or how it would be. He said he didn't like that feeling and now he was going to do it again. I told him it would make him a better missionary cause he would work harder :) Like they both wouldn't be good missionaries in the first place!
Isabel was a big help getting the bags ready and hooking them up!
Brady and Isabel went in to help them with the bags, Ben and I stayed out with the truck. As Ben saw them leaving he started crying. He wanted to go with them. This could be a long 2 years. Too bad he was being a turkey and wouldn't wave to them or give them hugs....
We got home a little bit later and the phone rang. It was mom. I thought we were going to have to run back to the airport quick cause they forgot something, but she just wanted to tell me where the temple names were so the family could do sealings. Guess we need to get that done before they get back :) So, even though we haven't heard from them yet, we are under the assumption that all is well and they made it safely!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Mom and Dad left on Aug 23 to go to the MTC. They got to drive their own car seeing as they got to come back home on Friday night! Guess there isn't too big a worry about the senoir couples just driving away and not coming back :) They were excited that they only had to pack for 5 days and then could come home and do the 2 year packing later. We decided to tell the grandkids that Grandma and Grandpa were going to school for a week, then they would come home for a few days, then go on their mission. This seemed to be easier for the kids to understand. Isabel asked me the Friday night before they got home if they spoke 'that language' yet, seeing as they were at school all week, they should be fluent! (according to a 4yr old :)) This is the classic picture every missionary must have. Pointing to where you were called to serve. There was a fireside while they were there. The speaker ended up being Elder Holland of the 12 apostles. He spoke on the book "Preach my Gospel." He said that when they were writing the book, he wanted the title to be "Preach my Gospel by the Spirit", but that title was too long. He told the missionaries that this is what they were doing wrong. They needed to teach by the Spirit. Dad said that his eyes were opened as to why they wrote certain parts of the book. He also was amazed that even having read and studied the book 3 times so far, he never really knew how to use it. Now he does. He and mom are both very excited to use it on their mission and in future callings!
They said that there was plenty of food there. They were amazed at how organized it was, and how many options there were for food. Friday was even pizza night. They ordered from Papa John's. Imagine getting an order for 1500+ pizzas. The missionaries were limited to 3 slices!

From what I gather, these are some of the other senior couples at the MTC with them. (I know, good deduction on my part :)) Mom and Dad did mention that there was another couple there that had been to the Philippines on a prior mission a few years back. Maybe this is them! That couple and the teachers at the MTC shared a few customs that exist in the Philippines.
*You shouldn't drive at night, seeing as there are no lights on the cars....
*When going up to the house you dont knock on the door, you say 'hello people' in tagalog
if no one answers you can knock on the door frame, just not the door
*There are really small apartments there. In one case the family had to move a bed to open a door, then move the bed back to open the closet....(and dad thought the basement bedroom
was small!!)
*People seem to have the belief that they need to be promoted, so to speak, in callings. If they feel that they aren't moving up, they stop going to church.
Mom and dad also learned that they need to wash their hands all the time, and drink only filtered water. There is a customary dish (a duck egg I think) that they aren't supposed to eat. They both said that it was very interesting and are excited to see how it will be! (Culture shock!)
If I can read the nametag right, this is their tagalog tutor. Dad said that it helped him greatly to be able to speak face to face and to ask direct questions about the language. When I asked them on Friday how their MTC experience was, they both said that they were very tired! They would go to classes all day doing roll playing and learing customs etc and then when everyone else got to go back to the hotel (the senior MTC building was under construction) dad and mom got to stay and have tutor sessions. Dad said that Friday night he just hit a wall with the language. I think that it will help them to be immersed in it. No better way to learn it I think! Dad went on Stake visits a few days before the MTC and they ran into Pres Maylin (one of his counselors when he was stk president). Pres. Maylin asked dad how the language was coming and dad said ok. Pres Maylin then asked him if he could pray in tagalog and dad said 'yes'. Could he say the first vision? Dad said 'yes'. Then he asked if he could bear his testimony. Dad said, "yes, I can." Then Pres Maylin asked, "well, what else do you need to know?" Dad said he thought about that and realized he probably would be ok. Those who know dad know that he likes to have things done right, a perfectionist of sorts, so even though he will be ok right now, I know he will learn a lot more pretty quickly :) Mom will too, just at her own pace!
It seems that they loved the MTC. Mom did take her cell phone so they could get updates on baby Sam why they were there. This helped ease some of the anxiety of having a grandbaby in the hospital, I think.
The kids were all glad to see them after 5 days. Isabel made a bank and is saving all her pennies so she can go to the 'Pill-a-peenes' to get them! Too bad she doesn't realize how long 2 years is!