Monday, October 25, 2010

Week 7

October 18, 2010

Dear Family,

It looks like we survived the typhoon. (Brady picked this picture)Apparently it is one of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines in years. It hit ground north of us so we just got a lot of rain and wind. All last night the rain came down so hard – I thought that we were in a very long car wash. It looks like there hasn’t been too much damage in our area but this morning it is still raining so we haven’t been out yet to see the extent of the damage. I worry about the members because many of the homes do not have glass window panes. I don’t know how they stayed warm and dry. We were blessed with safety and protection through the storm. We will see later how extensive the flooding is due to the continued rain.
We have had a very busy but very spiritual week. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve, Elder Jay Jensen one of the 7 Presidents of the 70 and Bishop Keith McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric have been in the Philippines for an 11 day tour of the missions here. On Wednesday we were honored to have Elder Cook (pictured to the left) conduct a missionary meeting for our mission. This was a wonderful experience. Before the meeting began he asked if he could shake everyone’s hand so all of the missionaries lined up and shook his hand. It was a good experience for all of us. He taught us many wonderful things and at the end of his message he made a promise to the missionaries but then he stopped and said , ‘No I prophesy to you …’ He did that twice so he wanted us to know that he was prophesying to us about the future of this land and people. I thought it was electrifying. President Howard then asked us as senior couples to come back on Saturday morning for a 4 hour leadership meeting with Elder Cook, Elder Jensen (pictured on the right) and Bishop McMullin (pictured on the left). This was a priesthood leadership meeting so Mom and the other Sisters stayed at the mission home while I went to the meeting. This was a great meeting with these brethren. I have always enjoyed being taught basic truths of the gospel from the scriptures and that is what they did for 4 hours.
We were able to attend a baptismal service for 3 individuals on Saturday evening. One was a 15 year old girl and the other an older couple. We had met this sister and her husband at one of the Temple tours and later at another baptism. We kept asking her to tell us when her baptism was so that we could come and be with them. I think they were happy to see us there. He was a born-again preacher and was not going to be baptized but as the missionaries taught them he had some remarkable experiences with the spirit and he wanted to be baptized. After the baptism we ran back to our branch to attend the Branch Social – of course we got there just in time for the games. They love to have us participate in the games and most of the time we don’t understand the directions so we stand there and smile and do whatever they tell us to do. I think it is building a trust between us and the members – or maybe they just like to get a good laugh.

On Sunday I asked the Branch President about when the next Temple Preparation class would be taught. We have visited some members and they need to go to the Temple. The Branch President’s counselor said that was a coincidence because they were going to ask us if we would teach the class starting next Sunday. We told them that we would be honored to teach the class. He then said that there could be a problem since the families they have asked to attend don’t speak or understand English very well. I guess we have 1 week to learn how to teach the Sunday’s lesson in Tagalog.
We were able to do a number of visits this week. My goal is to visit everyone in the Branch and then get to the point where I can take the Home Teacher with me. So many of the members we visited couldn’t believe that we would visit them. One sister kept saying, ‘You are in my home. My home’ She was so grateful for our visit. We also were asked by Sister Howard to begin doing apartment checks on the Elder’s apartments in our Zone. We will probably get the assignment to do more zones as time goes on. The Elders were also excited since we will start next week with having them over to our apartment for a monthly Family Home Evening. I don’t know how it will work out with 12 people in this little apartment but it will be fun for everyone. Our Zone has their assigned Temple day this Wednesday morning so we will be able to go to the Temple with them.
On the lighter side: I have had several people tell me that I remind them of someone famous. Some say it is a movie star from the Saturday matinee movies (of course these movie stars are from the 1950’s) But my all time favorite is the barber that kept saying that I looked like a very, very famous person. As he was cutting my hair he finally figured it out – He decided I look like Al Gore! I didn’t know what to say so I said to him that I would take that as a compliment. He said, ‘O yes compliment sir, compliment’ I laughed.

Well, we are doing well. We’re getting more into the work and one of these days we will begin speaking Tagalog (hopefully pretty soon). We love this land and people. We miss all of you and hope that everything is going well in your lives. The gospel certainly brings hope and joy into our lives. It’s good to see life through a different set of eyes to allow us to appreciate what we have been given. Please take care and write soon. It’s so good to talk to you each week. We love you all so very much.

Mom & Dad, Grandma & Grandpa

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week 6

October 11, 2010

Dear Family,

Some say that we would almost be a true Filipino – we had the honor of eating a Holo-Holo, This is a treat that you would eat on a hot day in order to cool off. In a large bowl, you take a scoop of white beans, a scoop of corn, a larger scoop of crushed ice. Now add some gelatinized coconut, tapioca, yam slices, a few slices of plantain(bananas), some pineapple, some jello cubes of any flavor (jello is a whole different story here), add a little coconut milk and top it off with two small scoops of ice cream (one scoop has to be a purple berry flavored ice cream). It is a delicious cool treat for a hot day ;) . I actually think they just wasted two good scoops of ice cream. But it wasn’t bad – although I probably won’t have another one anytime in the near future. We also had the courage to try a Chayote squash – it’s about the size and shape of a large pear. You peel off the outside and then cut it into cubes and cook it in stews and soups. The lime green color is a bit different (it’s the color of a honey dew melon) but it tastes like any other winter squash. I have also learned that things are not always as they appear – I bought a small bag of what I thought were limes (same color, shape and size) but they turned out to be oranges. I learned all of my life that oranges were orange but in this case oranges are green. The lime, onion and tomato dish for the sweet pork had a slightly different taste this time. I guess we’ll add that one to the learn-by-doing pile.
We have learned also that one has to be very alert when driving in a construction zone. There are no warning signs or flagmen on the road to warn you of the upcoming repair work – you just turn the corner and it’s there – right in front of you. They also don’t use any barriers just rocks – they line the area with large rocks so people won’t drive on the work area. Not only do you have to watch out for people, buses, cars, jeepneys, motorcycles and trikes but you have to watch for large rocks in the road. Driving is not only a challenge- it’s a game (with lots and lots of moving pieces)– and I admit that it is fun!
On Monday evening the Assistants to President Howard called us and asked if we could be at the mission home by 9:00 am on Tuesday. There were 19 missionaries going home on Wednesday and President Howard needed us to help transport these missionaries to the Temple and some other places around Manila.

President Howard likes to take the missionaries to the US War Memorial in Manila since this is where President Hinckley (at the time he was Elder Hinckley) stood in 1961 and dedicated the Philippines for the preaching of the gospel. It was an honor to stand at this sacred site and to pay tribute to the thousands of American and Philippine soldiers that lost their lives in World War II.

There are over 17,000 gravestones on the grounds and they also have a memorial with the names of over 35,000 soldiers that were missing in action. While walking on the grounds, it was clear why President Hinckley chose this site to dedicate the Philippines. (Pictured below is mom and dad with Elder Santillan in front of the wall of names)

After our visit to the War Memorial, President Howard took all of us over to the Krispy Crème Doughnut store. Of course our group of 26 filled the store and just our luck – the Krispy Crème sign was lighted up - that meant we all got a hot doughnut for free!

President Howard let the missionaries choose 2 more doughnuts and then we were off to the mission home again.

The Elders in our car were a real treat. Of the 6 elders in our car three had been Assistants to President Howard. Since we haven’t been here very long we haven’t had the privilege to get to know many of these elders. This time in the car was fun. One of the Elders was from Australia and had been a professional Rugby player. Another elder is a 27 year-old from New Zealand. Those 2 elders were hilarious. My mind reflected back to the stories Grant Douglas told of his companions from Samoa and the islands and I could see him singing and joking and teaching with these Elders. They love to sing and both play the ukulele. The whole car seemed to be singing everywhere we went. (Brady says this load carload probably made dad and mom feel at home....big boys in the back of a van!)

That afternoon we braved the traffic and found our way to the Manila Temple where President Howard was able to be the officiator for our session (he was an ordinance worker in the Las Vegas Temple prior to his call as the Mission President). President Howard received permission from the Area President to be set apart as an ordinance worker in the Manila Temple in order that he could officiate at this session. If ever I wanted to take a picture inside the Temple it was now – I would have given anything to have a picture of the smile on the face of President Howard as he stood before us in the Temple. This was a remarkable experience for us and for him. After the Temple session we went back to the mission home for dinner (mom sent a picture of a waterbuffalo....dinner maybe???) and testimony meeting. This was a spiritual day indeed. As we left late that night, I was able to give each of the Elders a big hug and thank them for the work that they did here. These are some great Elders and Sisters. We are very fortunate to be here.

We also were asked by the Area President’s Office to pick up a young 11 year-old girl and bring her to Manila for a doctor appointment. She was born with a cleft palette and the doctors have been working with her for 5 years – now she is ready for the final surgery. The church is affiliated with a charitable organization in Manila called the Mabuhay House (mabuhay means live long in Tagalog). The Mabuhay House works with doctors and hospitals to provide charitable services to those who can’t afford the medical care. They work with businesses and medical providers to give donations to provide these services. We were fortunate to be able to go to the Mabuhay House and meet the directors – they do a great work. (Notice the cows on the side of the road...figured this picture could go here cause they see this stuff on the way to Manila)

We were able to stay with President and Sister Howard and the other Senior couples for Saturday and Sunday to watch General Conference. The sessions of conference were great – I certainly liked the call from President Monson for more missionaries.
On the way to Manila we passed a work crew that was putting up one of the many advertisement signs along the freeway. As we were waiting to get on the freeway, we watched as they were welding the framework that would hold the sign – the one doing the welding was the only one wearing a protective mask – the others were just watching him weld. There was one individual that was doing the Filipino-squat (squatting down with his feet flat on the ground) on the beam – he was 3 stories off of the ground and he had no safety line attached to him (I’m sure he was wearing flip-flops also). I marvel sometimes at how they are allowed to do these things. We have seen workers repairing electrical lines by leaning the ladder on the lines and many more things that would never be allowed in the States. I keep thinking of the Dinosaur Show on TV – whoops, looks like we need another Timmy! (Mom says this is a random picture of a man carrying buckets...don't know what he is doing or what he is I put him with the construction paragraph :) )

We are doing well. The heat is still the same – I just can’t wait for the hot summer months (February through May) – I can’t imagine it getting any hotter. People say we just don’t get the afternoon rain shower in the summer months to cool us off – ugh! As I have said many times before, I have enjoyed studying Preach My Gospel. Mom and I have read the Book of Mormon together since we have arrived here. President Howard has a reading schedule of the Standard Works for the Elders and Sisters (we start a new schedule every 6 weeks –the missionaries will have read the Book of Mormon 4 times in their 2 years in the field). When we arrived they were 2 months into the reading schedule so mom and I decided we would try to catch up and be on the same schedule. It has been fun reading together.
Have a good week!

Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Pictures

Here are the new pictures for the week.
Adam asked Grandma to send a picture of the monkey that someone had for a pet. If you look in the tree, you can see him :)
This picture was taken in honor of Brady.... See, you only need 1 truck to do landscaping. There are at least 6 people in the cab too!
Mom sent a picture of their garbage can made out of a tire earlier, this is their garbage truck. They have to divide their garbage into wet and dry garbage, and put it into grocery bags. People usually go through it to see if there is anything that they can use. (They did the same thing in Brazil)

This picture is taken looking out the passenger side window. If you look at the ground you can see some larger rocks kind-of in a line. They use rocks for barricades instead of orange cones!

On the way to the house, they frequently see cows walking on the side of the road.

Here is one of the friendly geckos that lives with Grandma and Grandpa. It isn't the one from Grandpa's pants (mentioned in an earlier post), he didn't make it, but I bet he looks almost exactly like that one!

This picture is for Kim.....HaHaHa, there is a store named after me, and it has the word Happee on it! Looks like a mini-mart to me. Yea I'm famous!

Week 5

October 3, 2010

Dear Family,

Well week five is now a part of the history books. All in all it has been a good week. We have had some very wet weather and I am amazed that the ground can absorb this much water. Wednesday the skies opened up and the rain came down is sheets. I was sure that there would be some flooding but luckily none was encountered. The storm lasted for most of the afternoon. Thursday and Friday is rained most of the day although not as hard as on Wednesday. Still, I would think that the ground is saturated – I guess when the soil is not pure clay it really doesn’t matter. The land is beautiful. The trees and vegetation are very lush and green.

Monday evening we were invited to the Smith’s for a special Family Home Evening. They had purchased a pig and had a member feed it and care for it – they named him Fred. Monday Fred gave the ultimate – he was roasted over a pit in the front yard. They had invited about 70 people (missionaries) – it was nice. We had a storm roll in about 4:00 pm and the weather cooled down just right. As soon as the sun went down the frogs in the fields began to serenade us (it sounded like cows were mooing only in a lower bass key) they were really loud. Elder Swensen one of the senior couples wanted to go out and catch the frogs. The food was great but I must admit that it was a little strange to have Fred in the same room as you were enjoying him for dinner – it was just a little too personal at times.

The Smiths cooked 10 large rice cookers of rice – it looked like a mountain of rice but the Elders took care of it without a problem. It was fun to have all the Senior Couples and President and Sister Howard together for a preparation day.

Tuesday morning we went to Zone/District meeting. Our Elders are just great – they have a goal of 25 baptisms for October. It is fun to be with them. We meet with them and when they split out into their planning session Mom and I go into another room and study. We went to a small

bakery and bought some muffins for the Elders – the baker wanted to know how come we were buying so much and I explained that we had twelve young teenage missionaries that were hungry. He laughed as we talked to him. He told us that he had lived in California for a number of years but he had to move back to the Philippines because it was too hot in California – I had to laugh at that as I was wiping sweat from my forehead. It is still hot and very humid.

(Elder & Sister Smith, Pres & Sister Howard,Dad & Mom, Elder & Sister Swenson)

On Saturday we went to the Binan chapel so mom could watch the General Women’s Broadcast. We receive General Conference and other broadcasts a week after they are held. I took my scriptures to study while mom would view the broadcast but when I saw that only about 15 sisters were there I decided to stay and watch (the meeting was broadcast at 1:00 in the afternoon so not many sisters could attend at that time). I didn’t think they would kick me out so I stayed. It was a great broadcast and we had an enjoyable time talking with some of the sisters after the meeting. They are a remarkable people and I am humbled by their faith and trust in the Lord. They wanted us to come to their branch every Sunday. We told them that we would start visiting all of the Branches once we were more familiar with our assigned branch.
Mom took all of the pictures from the Branch FHE activity and put them on a piece of poster board. We took that to church on Sunday and put it on the wall – the people loved the pictures. They stood and looked at the poster at every break between meetings and after the meetings and we decided that we would leave it up until the next activity on October 16. The people love to have their picture taken.

There are a lot of barbers in the small villages but I just don’t feel comfortable with going there yet. But we decided that since it is so warm all the time we both needed to get our hair cut. We went to one of the malls and yes we had to endure more loud Christmas music. The haircut was quite an experience. Some of the barbers especially in the malls dress like women and it is difficult to tell if they are men or women. I was lucky and got a barber that was a ‘manly man’ (I think). They don’t use electric clippers – it is all cut with scissors. I got a shampoo, haircut, blow dry styling J and a scalp massage all for $4.00. There were times when I thought that he was going to smash my head in his hands but after I relaxed a bit it wasn’t so bad. Mom had her hair cut quite short and when we came into church Sunday morning one of the counselors in the Branch Presidency was taken back and said, “O Sister Morgan” and then stopped – the Branch Mission leader came by and joking said, “Sister got her hair cut”. The Counselor didn’t want to say anything to offend but the look of surprise on his face was just great

Have a great week!
Love, Elder and Sister Morgan (Dad & Mom/Grandpa & Grandma)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 4

Here are excerpts from this weeks letter.Mom only sent 1 picture, the one about the humps, so I googled a bunch of pictures and added them. Hopefully mom or dad will let me know if one of them isn't right :) ENJOY!

"This has been a rewarding week or us. We have had some choice experiences as we have met with members and recent converts and have attended our District Conference. It is still hot and humid. It seems that every afternoon we get a rain-shower which cools us down about 10 degrees however the humidity goes from 80% to 100% and we just don’t seem to dry out. The country is very beautiful with the different plants and trees. On the road leading out of our subdivision is a small house. I noticed one day that there was a monkey in the tree in front of the house. As we looked closer we found that the residents have the monkey as a pet. The monkey is tied to the tree and there are usually people around the tree playing with the monkey. We haven’t been brave enough to stop yet. (This is just a random picture of a monkey that I found...I thought it added to the letter :))
We met with a number of families this week. One sister was so happy with our visit. We talked with her and her daughters. As we left she asked when we would come again. They love to have people visit them. As we leave the neighborhood kids flock around us. They ask our name and they will take our hand and press it to their forehead – this is the ‘papal blessing’. Since we are white and tall (and old) they show great respect to us. In the home we get the chairs to sit on while they sit on the floor. It really is a humbling experience.

This week we had our District Conference. Elder Sinamban, an Area Seventy, was our visitor.
The conference started with a combined Auxillary & Priesthod training by Elder Sinamban, then we divided into groups for specific leader training. I thought this was a very effective way of utilizing the visiting authority to teach as many people as possible in the short time he was here. The adult session was different – Elder Sinamban asked the congregation for questions that they had in their home, family or callings and he listed them on the board. He then assigned different leaders to answer these questions. He asked that I answer a question about how as leaders we should respond to criticism. It was fun and I think we all learned a lot from each other. We also had a ‘new member or recent convert’ meeting early Sunday morning with President Howard. The President asked if I would take some time to address the new members. That was an enjoyable experience.

The members love to sing. They sing loud and with great emotion. Sometimes the melody isn’t exactly correct but it is beautiful. In the Sunday General Session they had a District Choir sing. They had members of all ages in the choir. They also sang in Tagalog which is not very common. They normally sing in English. I thought it was very beautiful to hear them sing the hymns of Zion in their native tongue – there is something special about that. They also had the youth participate as choristers – a young woman led the opening hymn, an Aaronic Priesthood holder led one of the two rest hymns and a young 10 year-old primary girl led the entire congregation in the second rest hymn. I was very impressed and my heart was touched by this little girl. She looked like a little angel up there in front of everyone.

Sunday evening we drove to Manila for a missionary musical fireside. There were about 500 people in attendance including the missionaries. The missionaries did a great job as they sang and testified of the truths of the Gospel. They had the entire congregation stand and sing Praise to the Man. That was impressive because they all sang out with their loudest voices. There are very few reservations about singing the hymns. It sends chills down my spine.
We attended 2 baptismal services on Saturday. There were 2 young men baptized in the GMA Branch and a mother and her 2 daughters baptized in the Carmona Branch. We were delighted when they had those who were baptized share their testimonies with the members at the service. It was very nice to hear their humble testimonies. I can’t help but feel that the Lord has prepared this land and people for the gospel at this particular time. It is a real privilege to be here and be a part of this great work.

The Church in the Philippines will celebrate their 50 year anniversary in 2011. The church has grown from 1 member in 1961 to over 650 thousand today with 650 chapels and 2 temples. What a blessing.

I have decided that driving over here is more than a sport – it is just plain fun. I can’t believe that it works?! We were on our way to church yesterday morning and we stopped at a stop light to turn left and I looked across the street at the oncoming traffic – there were 7 lanes of cars, jeepneys, and tricycles that were facing us and they were all going to merge into 2 small lanes – it is remarkable that it works out. I am finding that tricycles and jeepneys can be my friends. If they are turning left all you have to do is stay in their shadow and you can turn safely behind them and not have to wait in line to turn – it’s like a big strategic game with lots and lots of moving pieces. The way they keep the travelling speed down is to place large humps in the road at various locations – you only have to hit one of those going fast once to remember to slow down.
We had the opportunity to taste a singkamas – a large brown turnip. Janene said that it tasted like jicama but a little lighter and sweeter. I thought that it tasted like leather – I’m sure that you could dry it and make rope out of it (that would make a nice scout project). We have tried a local squash that was really good. We also purchased some green beans but they were really tough – they are the old string beans we used to grow in the garden (they still had strings and they were very tough). They also grow a string bean that is about 3 feet long – we were told later that this longer string bean is much more tender and doesn’t have the string in it. So far my favorite is the grapefruit like fruit. It is really good but sweeter than and not as juicy as the grapefruit that we have in the states. The mangos are great unless you get one that is a little tart. For the most part the mangos are delicious – just like Kim and Chris said they would be.

Please take care and be happy. Things will all work out. Remember to stay close to the Lord and He will bless you in all aspects of your life."